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Presidents called to sign diversity pledge

Agreement commits schools to ethnic, racial, gender diversity when hiring

Presidents and chancellors at NCAA member colleges and universities will be encouraged to sign a diversity and inclusion pledge, committing their schools to achieving ethnic and racial diversity and gender equity in college sports hiring practices.

Called the “Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics,” it was approved Wednesday by the NCAA Board of Governors and is also endorsed by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators. The 16 chancellors and presidents on the NCAA’s highest governing board, who lead schools in all three divisions, also requested to be the first signatories of the pledge.

“We believe the pledge sends a powerful and important signal,” said Jay Lemons, interim Board of Governors chair and president of Susquehanna University. “We know we must do better, and we believe that by acting collectively we can do better. We also hope that it will send a very clear and strong signal to those young persons, who perhaps haven’t even imagined a career in college sports, that there is a place for persons of color and women in college sports. And we hope that we will find ways of encouraging and creating the opportunities for professional growth and development that will bring better results so that, a decade down the road from now, we will have made great progress.”

While the higher-education community, including college athletics, has long supported diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, employment data suggest progress has stagnated. According to an NCAA survey completed in the 2014-15 academic year:

  • Fewer than 10 percent of athletics directors are African-American.
  • Ethnic minorities hold only 13 percent of leadership positions in athletics administration.
  • Only about 40 percent of head coaches in women’s sports are women.

The pledge states:

“Consistent with our mission and values, [NAME OF NCAA MEMBER HERE], a member institution of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), pledges to specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity and inclusion with a focus and emphasis on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics to reflect the diversity of our membership and our nation.

“We recognize and value the experiences individuals from diverse backgrounds bring to intercollegiate athletics. To that end, we will strive to identify, recruit and interview individuals from diverse backgrounds in an effort to increase their representation and retention as commissioners, athletics directors, coaches and other athletics leadership positions. As part of this commitment we will also engage in a regular diversity, inclusion and equity review to inform campus policy and diversity initiatives.

“We understand this to be a collective responsibility we owe to student-athletes, staff, our athletics programs and the entire campus community.”

The NCAA will make the pledge available in a communication to presidents and chancellors later this month. That communication will provide information about how to add their names to the pledge. The list of participating schools they represent will be available on at that time.

“I am excited about the Board of Governors’ adoption of a voluntary presidential pledge and commitment to promoting diversity and gender equity in intercollegiate athletics,” said Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement and chief inclusion officer. “This is a historic action.”