Helping sports organization solve integrity, growth, and development challenges

Q: What incentives should the athletics director create to advance diversity objectives?

A:   Never underestimate the leadership power of the athletics director (AD).  The AD should consider establishing all of the following practices to encourage diversity in hiring, recruiting and retention:

  • In sports in which the maximum limit of NCAA scholarships is not awarded, make known the availability of additional athletics financial aid to recruit minority student-athletes who might otherwise not be able to afford to attend or consider attending the institution.
  • Publicly recognize and express appreciation in staff meetings to coaches and staff who have contributed to employment diversity or increased student-athlete diversity on their teams.
  • In sports in which head or assistant coaches are not full-time, permit increased percent time appointments for minority coaches if necessary for hiring or retention.   For all coaches and staff, seek institutional approval for salaries necessary to compete in the marketplace for minority employees.
  • As a condition of receiving funding for attending professional conferences, insist that the staff member attend diversity sessions on the conference program and share such content with all staff upon his or her return to campus.
  • Each year, plan an event with each head coach (at least one team per season/3 per year) to have an informal conversation (“cokes with the AD” or “milk and cookies with the AD”) in which the AD specifically addresses the value orientation of the program:  diversity, respect, integrity, leadership and service and how each student-athlete can contribute to these values. 
  • Annually review the staff diversity assessments at a meeting of the full department each year, with the athletics director leading discussion on specific ways to improve diversity.
  • In the case of employees who have not yet achieved success in increasing staff and student-athlete diversity, consider use of the following mechanisms:
  1. asking for the reconstitution of a finalist pool with more and better qualified minority applicants;
  2. not recommending a cost of living or merit increase; and/or
  3. no offer of multi-year employment agreement.
  • Establish a policy to add a criterion such as “contributes to the recruiting or employment of minority job applicants” to the annual employee evaluation instrument used for all athletic department coaches and staff.
  • Establish an award named after a highly respected former athlete or coach of color and bring that person back to campus to present such award at the annual awards banquet.  Such public celebration of the achievements of graduates or coaches of color is an important demonstration of respect that may contribute to minority staff and student-athlete retention. 

Lopiano, D.A. and Zotos, C. (Publication 2013) The Athletics Director’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Practical Guide to the Management of Scholastic and Intercollegiate Athletics Programs. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.