NCAA to Call on College Presidents to Sign Diversity, Gender Equity Pledge

Presidents and chancellors at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member schools will soon be encouraged to sign a pledge committing their institutions to increasing efforts to improve racial and ethnic diversity and gender equity in athletic department hiring practices.

The NCAA Board of Governors — made up of 16 presidents and chancellors who lead schools in all three NCAA divisions — approved the measure Wednesday and became the first signatories on the document, called the “Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics.” The National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators expressed its support of the effort by also endorsing the pledge.

By signing the document, member institutions commit themselves to “establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity, and inclusion” in their athletic departments that “reflects the diversity of [NCAA] membership and our nation,” the pledge states.

“We recognize and value the experiences individuals from diverse backgrounds bring to intercollegiate athletics,” it continues. “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.”

Jay Lemons, interim chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and president of Susquehanna University, said he believes this collaborative commitment will help open the door for more diverse young people to work in intercollegiate athletics.

“We believe the pledge sends a powerful and important signal,” he said in a statement. “We know we must do better, and we believe that by acting collectively we can do better. We also hope 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 opportunities for professional growth and development that will bring better results so that, a decade from now, we will have made great progress.”

Employment data for college athletic departments show that progress toward diversity and equity remains stagnate. According to a 2014-2015 NCAA survey, fewer than 10 percent of athletics directors are African American, and ethnic minorities hold only 13 percent of leadership positions in athletics administration. Furthermore, just 40 percent of head coaches in women’s sports are women.

NCAA plans to distribute the pledge to presidents and chancellors of member institutions in all three divisions later this month. As an additional component of the commitment, the NCAA will also engage in regular reviews of diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts to inform institutional policies and diversity initiatives.

“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,” Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement and chief inclusion officer, said in a statement. “This is a historic action.”