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NCAA membership gathers for 2014 Inclusion Forum

CWA and MOIC will maintain focus on existing emerging sports

Athletics administrators, university officials and a host of colleagues committed to diversity and inclusion gathered recently to review policies, continue dialogue and consider future trends at the 2014 NCAA Inclusion Forum in Orlando, Fla.

The NCAA hosted the three-day forum to provide attendees the opportunity to get updates on best practice models, relevant data, equity procedures, inclusion and diversity planning, and key issues that will impact its membership and the student-athletes it serves.  The inclusion forum, in its third year, focused on dialogue centered on five primary areas: race, gender, international student-athletes, LGBTQ, and disability-access in sports.    

“We saw another successful turnout with the inclusion forum this year which tells us that the NCAA membership has an interest in discussing inclusion and getting more information about how it can have a positive impact on athletics and higher education,” said Bernard Franklin, executive vice president of NCAA membership & student-athlete affairs and chief inclusion officer.   “We also had members from the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee and the Committee on Women’s Athletics in attendance, which again, shows support.  The forum is becoming another NCAA event that has benefit for a wide range of individuals in the membership.”

In addition to learning more about how to create a more inclusive culture in an athletics and higher education setting, attendees participated in sessions focusing on the basics and specific issues surrounding Title IX; health and safety concerns as it relates to student-athletes; how media represent women in sports; hazing and why it occurs among student-athletes; career development and pursuing your potential in intercollegiate athletics; and the social media environment and its impact.  There was also a session focusing on the emerging role of chief diversity officers in intercollegiate athletics and their leadership.

The NCAA introduced a new concept at the forum this year called “Forum 15s,” which featured speakers spending 15 minutes to introduce research, an idea, or point of advocacy to stir the audience’s thought process surrounding inclusion and/or diversity.  Speakers offered thoughts on a variety of topics including faculty engagement in student success; the campus pride sports index: setting the benchmark for LGBTQ inclusion; strategies for achieving gender equity in collegiate athletics; international student-athlete research; and shaping the unknown: seeing potential in everyone.  

The NCAA Women of Color subcommittee, comprised of members in the MOIC, CWA, and the NCAA research group continued its “Advancing Women of Color” study at the forum.  The study will explore opportunities for women of color as NCAA coaches and administrators.  It is designed to determine barriers, unmet needs and lack of available resources specific to the advancement of women of color in intercollegiate athletics and to identify specific measures to better provide assistance in meeting the needs of this unique group.  The subcommittee also conducted a study at the NCAA convention in January and will host more focus group sessions this year.  The study should be completed by fall of 2014 with results being released in 2015.

The group also heard inspirational comments from sociologist, best-selling author and award-winning lecturer Dr. Bertice Berry.  Berry shared messages about how a more inclusive environment will bring a more purpose-driven environment in the workforce and that when promoting diversity, people need to look more at what is right versus focusing on what is wrong.  She shared her personal stories about networking and how she’s managed to ebb and flow in a changing society.   The attendees were also invited to view “Endless Abilities,” a new documentary about adaptive sports and the lives and journeys of individuals who are competing with physical disabilities. 


CWA and MOIC spring meetings

CWA and MOIC also held their spring meetings in conjunction with the forum.  Both groups will meet again in September in Indianapolis.

The CWA focused much of its time on finalizing a four-year strategic plan and discussing the future of the NCAA Emerging Sports Program.   As part of its plan, the committee, which is comprised of college and university administrators, decided to focus solely on sports that are currently in the NCAA Emerging Sports pipeline for the next four years versus adding new sports to the program at this time.  Sand volleyball, equestrian and rugby are currently in the emerging sports for women program, with triathlon to be added August 1.

As part of its review of the emerging sports program, the CWA voted not to forward proposals from acrobatics and tumbling and STUNT into the process, as the committee did not envision these sports as the next potential NCAA championship sports for women. However, NCAA schools can still offer those programs as varsity and any sport can still attempt to reach NCAA championship status by submitting a proposal to the NCAA championships cabinet.   At least 50 schools must have varsity programs competing in the sport for consideration through the championships cabinet. 

CWA also voted to move sand volleyball from emerging sport status to national collegiate championship status, which would trigger a membership vote during 2014-15.  If all three divisions vote in favor, the first NCAA sand volleyball championship would likely be spring 2016.  The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) currently conducts a national collegiate championship for team and pairs in sand volleyball, the committee’s preferred championship format.  The University of Southern California tandem of Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes won AVCA’s pairs championship this season, while Pepperdine won its second AVCA national championship team title.

In other news, members representing equestrian sports made a presentation to the CWA and will develop an action plan for adding more schools in an attempt to raise its participation numbers to the minimum of 40.  CWA received supportive letters from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference for equestrian sports and will revisit the sport’s progress at its September meeting.   For the last two years equestrian has stood at 22 varsity programs.  

The CWA is also finalizing a women’s sports inventory, slated for membership distribution this summer.  The resource will provide athletics departments with basic information on all 20 NCAA women’s and combined championship sports and the four emerging sports.  The catalog will contain information including participant demographics, facility and budget needs, championship opportunities, scholarship and coaching to assist schools that are considering adding sports.

CWA also elected a new incoming chair and vice chair.   Tim Hall, director of athletics at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, will replace current CWA chair Marilyn Moniz-Kaho’ohanohano of the University of Hawaii, this fall, and Carmen Leeds, senior associate athletics director at Emporia State University, will become the new committee vice chair.

MOIC also met and will conduct another advocacy roundtable in 2015 which will focus on diversity hiring and diverse representation in NCAA governance and on NCAA committees across all three divisions.  Its first roundtable centered on engaging with diverse organizations to seek strategic partnerships and support on various projects.   The organizations in attendance at the last roundtable included the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Hispanic Associations of Colleges and Universities, Minority Opportunities in Athletics Association, National Association of Collegiate Women in Athletics Administrators, National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, Black Sports Scholars Roundtable, Black Women Sports Foundation, and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

MOIC is also continuing its goal of getting more presidential involvement on the committee.  Currently, there are two vacancies for presidents on MOIC and the group will continue to push to have more representation and to keep that voice engaged, especially as it relates to inclusion and hiring. 

MOIC continued discussion and review of the NCAA Confederate Flag policy.  The NCAA executive committee discussed MOIC’s request to consider changing the policy and is currently seeking more feedback from the membership regarding the current policy.  It plans to reconsider the matter in the fall and discuss whether changes need to be made.   

MOIC’s divisional subcommittees took time to review the Division II and III membership survey focusing on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.  MOIC plans to assist the divisions with projects and initiatives, including Division III’s Institute for Administrative Advancement.  MOIC also discussed ways to be more visible within the membership in order to address issues occurring on campus that need to be brought before the committee for discussion.