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Maintaining Momentum

After increasing its focus on diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, Board of Governors forms subcommittee to tackle issue long term

The University of Oregon’s new football coach, Willie Taggart, was one of just three minority football coaches hired by Division I schools through mid-December 2016, an issue that a new Board of Governors subcommittee was formed to address. Chris Pietsch / AP Photo

To build on the recent momentum it has gained in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, the NCAA Board of Governors in October approved the formation of a permanent subcommittee to carry on the work that started earlier this year and provide consistent vigilance on the issue.

The subcommittee’s formation during the board’s October meeting continues a year of work in which the board recommitted itself to addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, which began with a resolution among its members to commit to diverse hiring practices on their campuses and extended to an Association-wide pledge to follow those practices. In the first three months since the pledge was sent to members, 788 schools and conferences – nearly two-thirds of the Association – have signed it.

Members of the board, which is composed primarily of school presidents, felt the new subcommittee would help the group maintain that momentum.

“These issues are important and are at the core of what college sports and higher education stand for,” says L. Jay Lemons, president of Susquehanna University and vice chair of the Board of Governors, who led the ad hoc committee on diversity and inclusion. “They are not going away, so our group needs to have an effective means for tracking these issues so we can respond in a timely manner. This committee should help us play a more proactive role with these issues.”

The board’s recent actions to address those issues began during its meeting at the 2016 NCAA Convention, when it was presented with data from Division I that indicated cultural diversity efforts needed presidential leadership and targeted support.

Among the findings: In a division with more than 146,000 student-athletes, 88 percent of 5,514 head coaches and 81 percent (286) of athletics directors were white. A large majority of positions as associate directors of athletics (1,546) and assistant directors of athletics (1,157) also were held by whites. Meanwhile, ethnic minorities held just 41 of 353 athletics director jobs and just 13 percent (446) of the total positions measured.

In response, the board drafted a resolution to further commit the Association to fostering a culture on its members’ campuses that promotes diversity and inclusion in athletics, and formed an ad hoc subcommittee to start working on identified areas of need, including improving hiring pipelines and developing research to monitor trends and measure progress.

That subcommittee took the first major step toward its goal in September, when it announced it was sending a pledge to the president and commissioner at every NCAA member school and conference and asking them to sign it to commit to hiring practices that promote diversity in gender, ethnicity and race on their staffs. Nearly two-thirds of those members have now signed the pledge: 692 school presidents and chancellors, representing 62 percent of the NCAA schools, and 96 conference commissioners.

The ad hoc committee was intended to be a short-term group, though, and the committee recognized that to fully commit to the effort would require a formal structure to work on the issue long term. In fact, the board previously has formed subcommittees to study issues related to diversity and inclusion, but the groups typically disbanded when other issues demanded attention.

The formation of a permanent subcommittee is intended to maintain a steady emphasis on the issues’ importance among school presidents and consistent

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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