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Commitment to Inclusion

NCAA, Division III dedicated to diversity in athletics

By Dennis Shields

Dennis Shields

For a little more than a year, the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group has reviewed critical issues related to the lack of ethnic and gender diversity within Division III athletics. In particular, the group has developed data and ideas to address the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in leadership positions among the division’s athletics programs.

Ethnic minorities hold only 6 percent of Division III athletics director positions, and women hold only 29 percent. The working group has found there is even greater reason for concern about these numbers: Recent turnover data show these groups may soon have even less representation among Division III athletics leaders. From spring 2014 through fall 2015, 70 athletics director positions were filled, and minorities claimed only three of them. Forty-six white males were hired. 

It is heartening to know the NCAA is committing significant resources to diversity efforts. Our group is developing ways to strengthen current programming and working closely with other college athletics partners in this endeavor. We also are formulating proposals to develop a pipeline to athletics leadership, and to create tools that help schools hire from more diverse candidate pools.

The working group was pleased with a pilot program that brought 39 ethnic minority student-athletes to the 2016 NCAA Convention to network and learn more about career opportunities in
Division III. We are repeating and enhancing the program at the Convention in 2017. Some conferences have produced excellent programs for student-athletes thinking about careers in Division III athletics. These efforts are useful and worthy of continued or even increased support from the division.

We will report in January at the Convention and will have, I am confident, useful and forward-looking ideas. In the end, though, a strong commitment by campus leadership is essential to effectively address this critical challenge.

Dennis Shields, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is chair of the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.