Office of the President

On campuses across the country, individuals come together from all backgrounds to rally around teams and cheer on their fellow students. It is a wonderful, uniquely American tradition that celebrates how college sports create and bring together communities.

While positive strides have been made to diversify student populations and offer students a well-rounded college experience, I echo the concerns of my colleagues who are dissatisfied with the number of leadership positions held today by minorities and women in college sports. If women and students of color do not see themselves reflected in those charged with helping them achieve success, how does that affect their views of the opportunities available to them?

To put our concerns in perspective, data collected by the NCAA in the 2014-15 school year across all divisions showed:

  • Fewer than 10 percent of athletics directors were African-American.
  • Ethnic minorities held only 13 percent of athletics administration leadership positions.
  • Fewer than 30 percent of women’s Division I teams that won an NCAA championship were led by female head coaches.
  • In all women’s sports, slightly more than 40 percent of head coaches were women.

These data provide some insights, but we need to better understand the numbers and how to tackle the issues they represent. Hundreds of explanations for the data might be available. And yet, the bottom line remains: We need more equitable representation of minority and female leaders throughout our member schools.

No solution is one-size-fits-all. From my conversations with university presidents, I know we share a high-level commitment to inclusion. But a singular promise is not a silver bullet, and it will not immediately solve the complicated issues we face. The cause of a low number of female coaches in one sport might not be a suitable explanation for another sport. An approach to diversity initiatives that is successful on one campus might be completely different than one on another. So long as trends move in the right direction, that kind of variation is appropriate and should be embraced.

Efforts to improve gender equity and minority opportunities run on parallel tracks. We cannot improve one avenue without advancing the other. Likewise, schools in all divisions must have transparent discussions about how our core value of inclusiveness can be reflected throughout all hiring processes.

The NCAA Board of Governors recently reinforced this value by unanimously approving a resolution that further commits our Association to diversity and inclusion. Leaders in all divisions have been assigned to research and analyze possible solutions to educate and equip our members on diversifying their departments and job candidate pools. And the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force – a group of commissioners, college presidents and athletics directors aiming to tip the scales on gender equality – already has been hard at work. I am eager to see their progress and subsequent impact.

Above all, our mission is to provide opportunities for all student-athletes. We must embody this sentiment through inclusive practices that provide role models for our students in leadership positions throughout athletics. College sports provide a pathway to opportunity for students, coaches and administrative leaders alike. Together, we all can achieve more.


Mark Emmert

NCAA President