The NCAA believes in the values of diversity and inclusion. Although it has made progress in increasing the diversity of the membership and generating opportunities within intercollegiate athletics for individuals of all backgrounds, the Association’s leadership recognizes there is more work to be done. The diversity and inclusion staff at the national office aims to centralize efforts concerning diversity and inclusion, serve as a point of contact for related concerns and assist the membership in developing initiatives that will lead to increased diversity and inclusion throughout intercollegiate athletics.
By David Pickle
The Association’s smallest division contains half of the NCAA colleges and universities that are designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions. To Metro State President Stephen Jordan, that means opportunity.
|Top sports for Hispanics in NCAA|
|Outdoor Track||Cross Country|
|Indoor Track||Indoor Track|
|Top sports for Hispanics in
|Outdoor Track||Cross Country|
|Number of Hispanic athletics personnel|
Institutional diversity is nothing new for Division II, which contains about 27 percent of all NCAA member colleges and universities. Of the three NCAA membership divisions, it has the highest ratio of Historically Black College and Universities to total membership. The ratio of Hispanic Serving Institutions (commonly known as HSIs), including three Division II institutions in Puerto Rico, also is the highest. All but one of the NCAA member institutions in Alaska and Hawaii are Division II members, and the NCAA’s only international member (Simon Fraser University, a provisional member in Canada) affiliates with Division II.
Like other divisions, Division II has its diversity and inclusion challenges. It lags on minority hiring, and it has the same clustering of minority participants in basketball, football and track as Division I. Such circumstances are difficult, if not impossible, to control through national policy and legislation, but to the extent that programs and awareness make a difference, Division II’s record is strong.
The most recent raising of awareness occurred in June at the Division II Chancellors and Presidents Summit, where attendees learned that 24 of 48 NCAA institutions designated as HSIs are Division II members. Jordan, a member of the Division II Presidents Council, said the number reflects a match between the purpose of Division II institutions and the needs of Hispanic students. Athletics, he said, can be an important conduit to join them together.
The current numbers on Hispanic athletics participation are not high for Divisions I or II. About 6.1 percent of Division II student-athletes are Hispanic; for Division I, the figure is about 3.7 percent (no data are available for Division III).
But where others may see problems, Jordan sees opportunity.
“I think we in Division II are very well positioned to lead that effort because we’re the institutions these kids are most likely going to go to,” he said, “because we’re the ones that have the large, urban comprehensive programs. The data about representation of minorities is not very good in elite research universities, but it’s unbelievably good in our kinds of institutions.”
In fact, the percentage of Latino students at Division II institutions already is the highest of the three divisions (10.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent for Division I and 6.8 percent for Division III).
All three figures are significantly smaller than the percentage of Hispanic citizens in the overall population (12.5 percent in 2000 and now estimated at about 16 percent). That leads to Jordan’s larger point, which is the lack of Hispanic access to higher education and the role that athletics can play in improving the situation.
“This is why this is so important,” he said. “General participation rates for Hispanics in post-secondary (are) lagging the rest of the country. Clearly in many of these states with large Hispanic populations, these kids are involved in athletics in high school, but they’re not making the step to college.
“So I see what is incumbent upon us – and we in Division II are perfectly positioned because of our community-engagement activities – is to be showing these athletes in high school that college is possible for them and that athletics can be a means for them to help accomplish that with our partial-scholarship model.”
The good news is that Division II coaches, administrators and student-athletes can be armed with data that demonstrate what a high school student needs to accomplish to pursue a college degree. The message is that the work, organization and preparation that lead to good grades are also primary factors that lead to college education.
“I was very impressed with the data that we reviewed at the (summer) Presidents Council meeting on how importantly GPA related to the core courses was in predicting success,” Jordan said. “Well, look at how important we can be in relaying that message to prospective students − that if you’re a student-athlete and you do these things, we know what a difference it’s going to be in your persistence and graduation rates.”
The data showed that while test scores correlated with GPAs had the highest predictive value, the single greatest predictor for first-year outcomes was grade-point average in core courses. With that in mind, Jordan said the message should be clear for athletically gifted students: Load up on core courses and make the best grades possible. Even if the standardized-test scores are not necessarily high, the potential to succeed in college remains.
|Current DII||Strict 2.0 & 820||GPA only 2.2||Scale 2.0 GPA|
The best group to carry that message may be student-athletes themselves. At Metro State, outreach programs point young Latinos toward higher education in general and toward athletics in particular.
“They believe the people they admire,” Jordan said. “If they really see your athletes as mentors and you’re having those one-to-one conversations, our kids can say to them, ‘You know, we know you can do this. You can be successful. I did it and I was successful.’ ”
Of course, motivation alone will not carry the day, and educational challenges for Latinos are substantial. Language is often a barrier, and so is educational history. Many Latinos would be first-generation college graduates, although Management Council member Kathy Turner said that points back toward mission at many Division II institutions.
“Many (Latinos) are first-generation students but that’s not unusual for our university,” said Turner, the faculty athletics representative at Oklahoma Panhandle State. “About 30 percent of our graduating class every year is first generation.”
Hispanics also face difficult issues surrounding immigration.
Jordan praised states that have enacted versions of the Dream Act, which grants resident tuition to young people who have been in the country for a specified time, even if they were born here illegally. He said that educators should remember that those students, whose numbers will grow in the approaching years, will play sports − and be motivated by them − just like other high school students.
Ultimately, he said educators should not obsess with the present but rather gain a clearer vision of what the needs and opportunities are for the future.
“It absolutely is a long-term question,” Jordan said. “Let’s don’t beat ourselves over the statistics. They are what they are. But they ought to be a wake-up call for us that we’ve got to do some things differently.”
For the 1999-02 cohort, the federal graduation rate for the overall student body at HSIs was 42 percent; for non-HSIs, it was 47 percent.
For the 1999-02 cohort, the federal graduation rate for student-athletes at HSIs is 46 percent; for non-HSIs, it is 56 percent.
For the 1999-02 cohort, the Academic Success Rate for student-athletes at HSIs was 58 percent; for non-HSIs, it was 71 percent.
The Division II Academic Success Rate for Hispanic student-athletes has increased from 54 percent in 1999 to 64 percent in 2002.
Joint meeting of Division II Presidents Council and Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Presidents attending the Chancellors and Presidents Summit also discussed the state of HBCUs in Division II, focusing especially on improved academic performance.
The presidents noted data that show steadily increasing Academic Success Rates for African-American student-athletes at HBCUs. The rate has increased from 46 percent for the 1999 cohort to 56 percent for the 2002 cohort. Those recent ASRs for African-American student-athletes at Division II HBCUs are about 10 percent higher than for African-American student-athletes at all other Division II institutions.
Although the cause of the improvement cannot be identified for certain, presidents at the meeting discussed possible factors, including a focus on academic support, a sense of community, a nurturing environment and the recruitment of more academically prepared student-athletes. The presidents also considered greater coaches’ accountability and the NCAA Eligibility Center’s impact on initial-eligibility standards, among other things.
MOAA/Division II Governance Academy: In June, Division II and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association co-sponsored a symposium in conjunction with the annual NACDA convention to facilitate the professional development of minority administrators within Division II.
The two-day program included general mentoring and leadership instruction, but it also featured Division II-specific information about the Division II strategic plan and strategic-positioning platform, along with a session about Division II committee service.
Augusta State Athletics Director Clint Bryant, chair of the Division II Diversity Project Team, said more young minority athletics administrators were attracted to the event in its second year. Twenty administrators participated in the 2010 academy.
“The whole mission behind this governance academy in Division II is to start to target young people in the membership who can be participatory in DII governance by getting on sports committees and regional advisory committees and other NCAA Division II committees,” Bryant said. “Hopefully, those will be the same people who eventually will be in line for Management Council service and so forth.”
Bryant said that part of the message is that good careers in college athletics administration are available at places other than Division I institutions and conferences.
“We feel very strongly that there are numerous opportunities at the Division II and III level that are just as rewarding and fulfilling as those at Division I,” Bryant said. “Will people at the Division II level of the Association get an opportunity to advance to Division I? Yes, they will. But at the same time, I see more and more people in Division II who are there as Division II people. After the smoke clears, there’s not as many job opportunities as you may think. More and more, you see minority administrators trying not to get pigeon-holed in jobs.”
Division II Strategic-Alliance Matching Grant Program: The program, established in Division II in 2002 and later replicated in Division III, selects institutions and conference offices to receive grant funding for three years, with diminishing contributions by Division II. Division II funds 75 percent of the position during the first year, 50 percent the second year and 25 percent during the third.
Participating institutions or conference offices are required to maintain the position for at least two years after grant funds are exhausted.
“In the matching-grant program, every institution has filled the grant and gone through the process still holds those positions on their campuses today,” Bryant said. “Not one position has been lost. Not a one. Now that’s something special.”
Division II currently funds the program at $700,000 annually.
Division II Coaching Enhancement Grants: Division II Coaching Enhancement Grants seek to overcome hiring barriers by providing grant funding for the creation of assistant coaching positions within Division II. Each grant provides $16,000 to create a new assistant coach position. Participating schools are required to contribute an additional $8,000 annually. Selections occur every two years, and no more than 18 positions may be funded over any two-year period.