In recent months we’ve seen a spike in the hiring of woman Athletic Directors headlined by Heather Lyke the new AD at Pitt. While these are huge wins in the area of gender diversity questions still remain. One is why haven’t we seen an increase in the number minority athletic directors? Back in September, the NCAA produced a diversity pledge urging university presidents, chancellors, and conference commissioners to “specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity and inclusion with a focus on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics.” While that’s all well and good, the question which remains is where are these qualified diverse candidates coming from and are they actually being considered for AD positions?
In December, I remember reading an article by Ken Goe of The Oregonian as he covered the Oregon State AD Search which ultimately ended with the hiring of Scott Barnes. Oregon has a state law modeled on the NFL’s Rooney Rule requiring public universities to interview a qualified minority candidate for high-profile jobs within the athletic department. The law is utilized to help minority candidates become a part of a wider pool of candidates in order to help them advance their careers. Ken, believed that OSU, who was presumably compliant with the law should release the names of the candidates to see how many minorities were interviewed. Those names were never released.
With Diversity and inclusion being a hot topic in society, not just sports, there are many issues that must be ironed out. While the intent to diversify athletic departments is evident the accountability lies in the process which is rarely made public. The numbers also echo the same sentiment. According to Richard Lapchicks Gender and Diversity Hiring Report Card published last November, for the 2016-17 academic year, 88.3 percent of FBS school presidents, 85.9 percent of athletics directors, 89.4 percent of faculty athletics representatives and 100 percent of conference commissioners were white.
Until there is better transparency in the search process the public can only speculate whether or not NCAA member schools are actively seeking diversity in leadership positions. While the NCAA Diversity Pledge isn’t binding by any means, it does need to be revisited. Symbolic gestures mean nothing if change isn’t facilitated. Also if there’s a belief there aren’t enough qualified minorities to interview for these positions, there must be a concerted effort to grow the pipeline and identify diverse talent. Hiring practices are the lifeblood of college athletics and universities have a directive to ensure fairness while creating opportunity for those who are qualified. Yet, until there is accountability the status quo will remain the same.
Ronnie Burton Jr., is an emerging professional within collegiate athletics and higher education. Prior to writing for CollegeAD Ronnie worked in administrative and coaching positions at California Lutheran University, Arizona State, and Michigan State. A 2015 graduate of Arizona State’s Masters in Sports Law and Business Program he looks to be an asset for organizations making decisions in the areas of regulation and revenue generation. A former college baseball player, Ronnie’s passions reside at the intersection of higher education and athletics.