Notre Dame prez refuses to sign NCAA diversity pledge

The presidents of Boston College and the University of Notre Dame are refusing to sign an NCAA pledge committing to “ethnic and racial diversity” in the hiring process, making them the last two holdouts in all of Division I.

The NCAA has been explicitly encouraging presidents and chancellors to sign its “Presidential Pledge” since last fall, maintaining a list of signatories to praise for “their commitment to promoting diversity and gender equity.”

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“Consistent with our mission and values, our institution, a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, pledges to specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity and inclusion, with a focus and emphasis on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics, to reflect the diversity of our membership and our nation,” the pledge states.

Specifically, the commitment entails actively recruiting “individuals from diverse backgrounds” to serve as coaches and leaders in athletics,” as well as conducting “a regular diversity, inclusion, and equity review to inform campus policy and diversity initiatives.”

According to The Washington Post, just 12 Division I universities were not included on the NCAA’s most recent list of signatories. The presidents of nine of those schools indicated that they were unaware of the pledge but would sign immediately, while one president blamed a technological error for the omission of his name.

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The presidents of Notre Dame and Boston College, however, confirmed through spokespersons that they had made a conscious decision not to sign the pledge.

ND President Father John Jenkins “feels strongly that [principles] of such importance should be authored and pronounced by Notre Dame itself and applied university-wide, and not as the product of an association focused exclusively on collegiate athletics,” explained university spokesman Paul Browne

Browne acknowledged that the athletic department is managed predominantly by white males, but attributed such demographic realities to the high rates of poaching among black members of the program.

“The diversity of our current administrative team is not where we want it to be, and that’s being addressed soon,” he asserted. “While poaching is an annoying fact of life, Notre Dame is proud of helping advance the careers of prominent African-American athletics administrators who are now serving at other universities.”

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Boston College President Father William Leahy likewise abstained from taking the pledge, but a university spokesperson offered a very different explanation for that decision, saying Leahy feels that the pledge is not worded strongly enough, and would prefer that the NCAA institute a rule requiring athletic departments to interview at least one minority candidate for any senior coaching or administrative position.

“A deep commitment to diverse campus communities already exists. The task is to act,” BC spokesman Jack Dunn told the Post. “Many colleges and universities have voiced the same concerns about the pledge. It strikes many of us as a feel-good measure that will not address the issue.”

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