College sports receive B grade for diversity

Associated Press file photo by MARK HUMPHREY -- Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart celebrates with players after the Hilltoppers beat Middle Tennessee on Oct. 6, 2011. Taggart, who was hired at South Florida after last season, is among the 18 black head coaches at college football's highest level.
Associated Press file photo by MARK HUMPHREY -- Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart celebrates with players after the Hilltoppers beat Middle Tennessee on Oct. 6, 2011. Taggart, who was hired at South Florida after last season, is among the 18 black head coaches at college football's highest level.

A new study gives college sports a B grade for racial and gender hiring practices, though the overall numbers have dipped slightly from last year.

The 2012 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card was issued Wednesday by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

The mark for gender hiring rose slightly to 81.3 points from 80.7 a year ago, while the number for racial hiring dipped to 81 points from 82.2. The overall score fell to 81.1 points from 81.5.

Among all the professional and college sports covered by the study’s report cards, college sports earns the lowest grade for racial hiring practices and is ahead of only the NFL and Major League Baseball in gender hiring.

“As someone who has worked at the college level for years, it’s disappointing to me that the colleges are still worse than the pros in racial hiring practices and in many cases gender hiring practices,” said Richard Lapchick, one of the study’s authors. “My hope is that things would continue to improve, but the numbers actually declined a little this year.”

The study showed areas of improvement but pointed out concerns. The proportion of African-American men’s basketball coaches in Division I dipped to 18.6 percent, down from a high of 25.2 percent in 2005-06.

It’s also the lowest mark since the 1995-96 season.

“That significant decline is worrisome,” Lapchick said.

Lapchick said the downward trend in diversity for men’s basketball is another reminder that colleges and conferences need to be diligent about diverse hiring. He said college sports should have a standard similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule to promote diversity in the hiring process.

“Scrutiny is an incentive for schools to have a diverse process, and when that happens, there’s a better chance that a school will make a diverse hire,” Lapchick said.

Lapchick said there are reasons to be encouraged, including well-publicized recent gains in football and women’s basketball head coaching positions.

There were 18 minority head football coaches last season out of 120 Division I schools, which was the same number as a year ago.

There is also ample diversity among the actual athletes. In Division I men’s basketball, 57.2 percent of all players are African-American while 51.6 percent of all FBS football players are African-American.

In Division I women’s basketball, 47.9 percent of all players are African-American.

But the study also noted problems — especially in administration.

All of the conference commissioners for FBS conferences are white men, while 89 percent of all athletic directors at the Division I level are white.

Only 8.3 percent of Division I athletic directors are women.

African-Americans at 6.3 percent and Latinos at 2.8 percent.

“It’s another area where we need scrutiny,” Lapchick said. “It’s why every year we publish a leadership study. Presidents, commissioners and athletic directors make decisions that have impact.”