NCAA leans on school officials to sign diversity pledge

The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) is "encouraging" administrators in all three athletic divisions to sign their names to a “diversity and inclusion pledge.”

All signatories will be publicly recognized on the NCAA’s website as university officials who promote “diversity and gender equity in intercollegiate athletics,” though Inside Higher Ed reports that no sanctions will be imposed on schools that either decline to sign the pledge or fail to fulfill their commitment.

As a practical element of the pledge, signatories agree to promote diversity in their “hiring practices,” meaning they will “strive to identify, recruit, and interview individuals from diverse backgrounds,” a term the NCAA indicates is a reference to women and racial/ethnic minorities.

“We recognize and value the experiences individuals from diverse backgrounds bring to intercollegiate athletics,” the pledge states. “As part of this commitment we will also engage in regular diversity, inclusion, and equity review to inform campus policy and diversity initiatives.”

Some prominent academic institutions have already given their full endorsement to the pledge, including the American Council on Education (ACE), which is chaired by Georgetown University president John DeGioia.

[RELATED: Georgetown still atoning for 1838 slave sale]

“We are pleased to give our full support to the NCAA as it seeks commitments from college and university presidents to establish initiatives to achieve ethnic and racial diversity and gender equity and inclusion in intercollegiate hiring practices,” DeGioia wrote in a joint statement with ACE’s president, Molly Corbett Broad.

The NCAA based the pledge on an internal study from the 2014-’15 school year, which revealed that fewer than 10 percent of athletic directors were African American, and that ethnic minorities held only 13 percent of all administrative positions in college athletics.

“When school’s take this pledge—and follow through with their actions—it can be a powerful instrument that supports university and Association values when addressing student-athletes, recruits, parents, and prospective staff on their campuses,” declared Bernard Franklin, the NCAA’s executive vice president of education and community.

The move comes on the heels of a months-long debate over North Carolina’s controversial “transgender bathroom bill,” which recently resulted in the NCAA pulling all championship games from the state until the legislation is reversed.

Such behavior, in fact, is not at all uncharacteristic for the NCAA, which also weighed in against Indiana’s religious freedom bill in 2015, even though 19 other states had pissed similar bills at the time.

In that case, NCAA President Mark Emmert said that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the short-lived law allowing religious beliefs to be used as a defense in court, hinting that the organization might have to reconsider its engagement in the state if the law were allowed to take effect.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski