Boston College, Notre Dame Presidents Refuse to Sign NCAA Diversity Pledge

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A diversity pledge issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) last fall has failed to garner support from nearly one-third of the association’s 1,200 member schools, according to The Washington Post. The NCAA’s Presidential Pledge: “The Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics” asks higher education leaders to commit to increasing diversity among athletic administration and staff ranks — a workforce which remains overwhelmingly white, according to NCAA chief inclusion officer Bernard Franklin.

During a recent presentation to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Franklin focused on the need for colleges and universities to support the pledge, pointing out the drastic differences between the makeup of college athletics teams — which have high percentages of African American players — and athletic departments that oversee such teams. In NCAA Division I, more than 80 percent of athletic directors are white; similarly, less than 25 percent of football and basketball coaches are minorities, while more than half of all players are African American, according to Franklin.

Following Franklin’s May 1 presentation, The Washington Post began an investigation into the pledge and 12 of the NCAA member schools that had not signed the document in the seven months since it was issued. Several schools told the Post they had either overlooked the pledge or had never received it. The presidents of Boston College (BC) and the University of Notre Dame, however, said they had received the document but refused to sign it.

Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, told the Post he felt the pledge was unnecessary, as the responsibility for ensuring a diverse campus community should lie with the university and not with an outside athletic association. Similarly, Father William Leahy, president of BC, refused to sign the pledge because he said it does not go far enough in addressing and enforcing the need for diversity in college athletics, according to a spokesman for the college. Both schools also noted that they have their own institution-wide diversity initiatives, and BC pointed to the fact that it recently hired an African American athletic director. Despite this, according to the Post, both BC and Notre Dame’s athletic departments — like those at many schools — are predominantly white.

Leahy is not alone in his belief that the NCAA’s pledge is ineffectual, as many other colleges have stated that although the pledge indicates the NCAA’s good intentions, it does not include an action plan. While it calls for college and university athletic departments to create initiatives that will aid in the recruitment of diverse employees, it does not provide specific recommendations for how schools should enforce such initiatives.