The NCAA inclusion staff and influential leaders from minority and advocacy groups have identified and strategized on issues that impact student-athletes and administrators of color in an effort to develop a more inclusive culture in athletics and higher education.
The Inclusion group is the new structure assembled last October at the NCAA national office that will focus on developing policy to create more inclusive environments; engaging presidents and chancellors surrounding inclusive issues; and collaborating with national and influential organizations that have diversity or inclusion as their primary mission.
Discussions at the minority coalition meeting, conducted at the recent convention of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, included education-related challenges; agent interference and other external influences in high-profile sports; and increasing opportunities among underrepresented sports, minority student-athletes and professional women.
The group selected three issues for additional discussion:
The minority coalition meeting marked the third such gathering hosted by the Inclusion group. Prior meetings were also held with women’s groups and professional sports organizations.
“Overall, I was quite pleased with the frankness of the discussion and the depth of the dialogue,” said Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of membership and student-athlete affairs/chief inclusion officer. “Throughout the course of this meeting and in previous meetings, we’ve seen acceptance from key leaders for inclusion. As we move toward our Inclusion Summit, we’ll take many of the concepts from our meetings and build the foundation to help develop policy and support our membership in their endeavors to foster a more inclusive culture within intercollegiate athletics. Undoubtedly, this strategic direction will benefit our student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”
The group discussed ways to introduce programming that center on educating minority student-athletes about future opportunities in athletics to increase representation in the NCAA structure. The group also said programs that seek to promote minority hiring and development should continue.
Increasing coaches’ and administrators’ access to student-athlete prospects was discussed in detail. The leaders believe coaches and academic counselors are losing ground to external sport organizations, such as club sports and travel teams, when it comes to providing minority prospects with direction and preparation for college. The group asked whether more rules deregulation was a possibility during its discussion about access to student-athletes. The leaders also said more academic preparation information needs to get to parents and guardians in the minority community.
Also, participants expressed concern about developing the means to better connect presidents and athletics directors to minorities who are seeking employment. Discussion centered on the low number of ethnic minorities in senior athletics positions, along with unique barriers for women of color, such as the lack of inclusion and visibility within athletics and having fewer opportunities to advance to senior positions and management roles in athletics. The group felt that as the student-athlete population diversifies, the administration will also need to reflect gender and ethnicity changes.
“I appreciated the open discussion at the coalition meeting and was glad to see the issues surrounding women of color being discussed,” said Lori Ebihara, a senior associate athletics director at Baylor and a former Minority Opportunities Athletic Association board member and Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee member. “Overall, the meeting was very productive.”
“The coalition discussion was a great meeting that was long overdue,” said Floyd Keith, executive director of Black Coaches and Administrators. “We had a very candid and open discussion that was stimulating. The issues are certainly big, but this is not the first time they’ve been discussed. Now, we have to act upon it and not just talk about it.”
The Inclusion group will broaden discussions Sept. 19 when it will be joined by NCAA President Mark Emmert in hosting the 2011 NCAA Inclusion Summit: Challenges, Champions and Collaborative Strategies in Indianapolis. The summit will feature influential leaders within both the higher education community and advocacy groups who will discuss measurable action-oriented outcomes and strategies to advance an inclusive culture in intercollegiate athletics and higher education. Education sessions, panel presentations and strategic planning will take place at the event.