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Group commits to inclusion within structure, recruitment efforts

Jessica Poole (left), then the senior associate athletics director for external relations at Florida Atlantic, and NCAA Executive Vice President of Inclusion and Human Resources Katrice Albert chat about inclusion at CoSIDA’s convention. Jeff Hodges / University of North Alabama and CoSIDA

For the College Sports Information Directors of America, the lack of diversity in its ranks has been a consistent concern for decades. But through careful and deliberate steps, the organization is trying to lead its members — the caretakers of the college sports message — toward a more diverse and inclusive culture.

The genesis:Among college sports administrators, sports information directors are among the least diverse. In 2017-18, the most recent year for which NCAA research datais available, 91% of sports information directors in all three divisions were white, and 88% were male.

Those numbers are nothing new. But the need to promote a diverse and inclusive culture within CoSIDA took on new prominence during a meeting at the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. There, two African American members — Scottie Rodgers, the Sun Belt Conference associate commissioner for strategic communications, and Kenisha Rhone, the director of athletics digital media and social strategy at Belmont — urged the organization’s officers to prioritize diversity and inclusion. “It felt like that was a starting point for us,” says Doug Vance, CoSIDA’s executive director. “It sent a message that we should be shining a light on what steps need to be taken.”

First steps:More than 60 years old and with a nationwide membership of over 3,100, CoSIDA faced a dilemma: how to steer the organization toward a more diverse and inclusive culture while achieving buy-in from its members.  

The national board made two key decisions. It created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee that adopted a value statementto solidify and communicate the group’s commitment. It also diversified its own ranks, electing its first African American president in a generation and creating a board that is the most diverse in CoSIDA history. The group expects its first female African American president, Jessica Poole, to take the post in 2022-23.

The culture now:From CoSIDA’s convention programmingto the content of its magazine, CoSIDA 360, it’s hard to miss the group’s devotion to encourage interest from women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. CoSIDA partners with the NCAA championships and alliances group to provide six professional development grants aimed at the inclusion, advancement and retention of ethnic minorities in media relations and communications. It also has reached out to underrepresented groups within its membership at historically black colleges and universities, two-year schools and other small colleges to encourage engagement.