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NCAA reviews members’ diversity practices

Kenneth J. Cooper | 5/30/2012, 7:48 a.m.

Perhaps because keeping score is an intrinsic part of competitive sports, the NCAA has tracked diversity by the numbers, counting how many ethnic minorities and women work as coaches and athletic directors, particularly at Division I schools.

With the organization taking that singular approach, member colleges and universities have moved the ball on diversity more by inches than entire playing fields.

In Division I, 7 percent of athletic directors are black and about 10 percent are women. On men’s basketball teams, 61 percent of players are black, while 23 percent of head coaches are.

Two years ago, new president Mark Emmert came up with another play for the NCAA’s offense on diversity. Besides collecting statistics, the national office in Indianapolis would promote change in campus culture as a way to increase the diversity of athletic directors, coaches and players.

“If we can change the culture, then we think that the numbers, the increase in representation, will be a direct byproduct of a more inclusive culture,” explained Bernard Franklin, an NCAA executive vice president who is also its chief inclusion officer.

Franklin, a former president of Virginia Union University, oversees a new Inclusion Office that has consolidated the NCAA’s diversity efforts. The combined office brings together staff focused either on ethnic minorities or women, operations that were previously separate.

“We are now probably functioning more as a choir than as soloists,” Franklin said.

So far, the new office has been laying the foundation for changing campus culture by taking soundings from member schools about what they need from the NCAA and about best practices they have in place already. A diversity summit last September attracted more than 175 people to Indianapolis and another 200 to the webcast.

Franklin has been meeting with college presidents and chancellors, who have a say in hiring athletic directors, coaches and athletic conference commissioners. Those top leaders also play a big role in shaping the culture and climate on campuses.

“We are looking at strategies to more effectively engage chancellors and presidents,” Franklin said. “Without them, we are not going to see a change in the landscape that we all desire to see.”

Floyd Keith, executive director of Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA), and a leading critic of hiring patterns at NCAA schools, sees how the new diversity thrust can work — alongside the old one.

“I think it’s noble. If you change the climate, you are eventually going to change the landscape, because people adjust to climate,” Keith said. “But a lot of times it’s hard to measure climate because you have to have something tangible to look at. So I don’t think you can ever get away from numbers.”

The NCAA’s old approach on numbers and new one on culture will come together this summer, when the Inclusion Office holds a roundtable discussion of recruiters from search firms that identify candidates for athletic jobs.

Kimberly Ford, the NCAA’s director of minority inclusion, said the June 27 discussion at a convention of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in Dallas will examine issues related to hiring minorities and women and “how the NCAA can play a more critical role in that particular process.”