NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Week Day 3 - The Facts

NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Week Day 3 - The Facts

This week the ECC will join student-athletes across the nation celebrating NCAA Diversity & Inclusion Week. With our schools located in some of the most diverse areas in the country, we'll celebrate our differences and show inclusion is a team sport.

Day three's theme is "The Facts: Sharing diversity statistics, facts and figures." Throughtout the day, the conference highlighted numerous student-athletes and an athletic administrator on our social media accounts. Now a few get the chance to write in their own words on the statistics they shared.

Patricia Thomas - University of the District of Columbia Athletic Director

Of the 1,134 athletics directors at NCAA schools, only 30 are women of color (2.6 percent). Patricia Thomas is one of the 30. 

I am a trailblazer, a fraction, one of the 2.6 percent of Directors of Athletics at NCAA member institutions who is a woman of color. The statistical model, according to the most recent college sports racial and gender report card, conducted by Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), with the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central  Florida. TIDE is an interesting acronym in this context. While Richard Lapchick has been advocating diversity in athletics for ages, race and gender in college athletics are subjects that are discussed periodically, the national conversation rises and falls seemingly with the publication of Richard’s reports.

With the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX on the horizon, NCAA member institutions scored lower gender hiring practices than the previous two years.   The national office in Indianapolis fared a bit better. While gender equality is discussed, and measured with increased frequency, racial equity seems, at least to me, the elephant in the room. I am as guilty as anyone, perhaps, for not carrying the “Black Female Athletic Directors matter” banner as much as I reasonably should.   After all, pointing out the obvious is my responsibility, right? However, the various roles and responsibilities throughout my decades long career in athletics administration, were done so with the deliberate thought of the task at hand and the end result as a competent professional. It did not seem to matter, at least to me most of the time, that I was black or a woman. After all, early on as I participated on NCAA committees, I interacted with outstanding black women such as Horizon League Senior Associate Commissioner, Alfreeda Goff who today remains among the most respected athletic administrators in the country,  Michelle Willis, Senior Associate Director of Athletics at the Ohio State University, Jackie Campbell  who served in the National Office, and there was Dee Todd, the first female Director of Athletics at North Carolina A&T University and the first black female to appear on the box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes, to name a few. As we contributed on the national level and our respective careers developed, the number of women in athletics administration who looked like us would grow in proportion to the number of  female student-athletes (of color). Our presence would tell the story for us or so I thought. With each ensuing year, Richard Lapchick’s reports would reveal the actual lack of progress in administration as well as coaching among women of color; the NCAA’s data would reflect similar results.  

Where are we and what is my responsibility? The good news is that dialogue related to diversity in the microcosm of the National Collegiate Athletic Association is spreading and deepening to include ethnicity and race. The occasion on which I write this blog as an example, strengthens the importance of the movement among NCAA member institutions. Women Leaders in College Sports, through the Women of Color Initiative, provides growth opportunities. The tide is rising. China Jude, Sr. Associate Director of Athletics at the University of Wyoming has made increasing the growth and visibility of women of color a mission. Through China’s leadership, the Women of Color Athletic Director network was formed a few years ago. During the 2018 National Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention this past June, the Women of Color Athletic Director network benefitted from a panel discussion featuring, Dr. Dan Mahoney, President of Winthrop University, Dr. Amita Breaux, President of Bowie State University and Dr. Marylou Yam, President of Notre Dame College of Maryland. The session was enlightening, however what was most powerful was the experience of sitting in a room with over 50 women of color who serve as Commissioners, Athletic Directors and in other administrative roles in athletics. The day before the NACDA panel, six of us participated in a discussion as part of The Culture of Sports, moderated by Jonathan Yates. The segment was taped in the State House of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis and featured, Dr. China Jude, UC Riverside AD Tamica Smith Jones, Dartmouth Senior Woman Administrator Kristene Kelly, Lafayette AD Sherryta Freeman, former Winston-Salem State AD, Tanya Walker, and yours truly. I have mentored or at least touched the lives of countless young men and women along the way. And, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have experienced and the individuals who were instrumental in guiding my path, most notably Francis X. Rienzo, Joseph Lang, Denis Kanach, Dwight Datcher, Adam Brick, Kevin White, Linda Bruno, Jean Lenti Ponsetto and countless other administrators and coaches. However I  do recognize my role in pushing the elephant out of the room, and working to significantly increase the 2.6.

Tiara Filbert - Daemen Women’s Basketball

The third day of diversity and inclusion week is about enlightening people on how the NCAA includes diversity in its colleges. The NCAA currently has over 17,000 international student-athletes who are enrolled and are competing in the colleges and universities connected with the NCAA. There are many people from different ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, and also from different countries who hold positions in athletic programs across the nation. Many student-athletes come from all over the world in order to play a sport they love. There will always be differences in athletics programs, and to aid the guidance of diversity and inclusion, Division II of the NCAA has the 'Division II's Distinguishing Dozen' which states in number twelve that "Matching grants encourage access, recruitment, selection, and the long-term success of ethnic minorities and women in administration and coaching." By the NCAA having this in their dozen, they are creating a supportive environment for those from different ethnic backgrounds to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Cynthia Perez - Mercy Women’s Basketball

Diversity is constantly growing in countries, workplace, and even in our school system. When I hear the word diversity, I think about learning from one another and coming together as one. It is important to be acceptive of everyone and their culture, social customs, and religion to make the world a better place overall. Diversity makes the world a more interesting place to live in as people are contributing to different knowledge, languages, and new ways of learning. Understand about different cultures helps us see different perspectives.

Jenna Turato - Molloy Softball

As a student athlete, it means a lot to me when new sports are added to our school at Molloy. As a female student-athlete, it means even more that women get to participate in these sport programs.  For years, women were not allowed to participate in organized sports. Since Title IX, opportunities for both men and women increased. It is sad to think that women were once looked at as if they could not compete at the same level as men.  I am so proud to be a female athlete because it shows the world that we are good enough to compete, it shows the world that we can be as tough, and most of all it shows the world that men and women should be given the same opportunities.

I am so proud to be able to represent my school every day as a student-athlete.  Both men and women are able to be leaders on campus each and every day. I know that because women are allowed to participate in these NCAA sports, I get to be role model on campus. I get to be that leader and I get to be that person I hope people could look up to. Title IX changed the world of sports for the better. Both men and women are able to experience the same things and that is so important to me. Sports matter and to have a chance to participate in a sport and to be a leader, I am forever grateful.

Jack Nicholson - St. Thomas Aquinas Men's Soccer

Being an international student, making the decision to move to America was a massive one. I had no idea what to expect, moving to a new place where I didn't know anyone, and I really had no idea what to expect. I've been so lucky to have met people from all over the world in my time at STAC, and the diversity displayed within NCAA student athletes is extraordinary, it provides such a great opportunity for so many individuals. As my time at STAC comes to end I will look back on many of the great memories I have experienced here, and the great people too.

To check out all that shared how they are "Beyond a Label," check out the Twitter moment below or head over to our Instagram page at @eccsports.