Last week, I spent a week working with and learning from individuals deeply committed to promoting diversity in intercollegiate athletics – The National Association for Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and the Center for Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Washington. Both organizations’ commitment exceed the superficial, perfunctory, and obligatory commitments made by organizations and reflect a deep commitment to identifying future leaders in college athletics from all walks of life.
Monday morning, I visited with Dr. Jen Hoffman, a researcher with the Center for Intercollegiate Leadership at the University of Washington in Seattle. The center, whose mission is to provide instruction to future leaders across the spectrum of collegiate athletics, including coaches, policymakers, and administrators, and support research on all areas of college athletics, is thriving, increasing its graduate cohort manifold in its brief existence. The executive masters program emphasizes leadership training among its diverse student leaders, who from the cohort I visited with represent many disciplines, geographical regions, ethnicities, and age groups.
The rest of the week, I spent visiting with hundreds of college athletics administrators from across the country at the NACDA national conference in Anaheim, CA. NACDA highlights the efforts and achievements of athletic administrators across the country. It was clear that regardless of region, race, gender, age or any other cultural affinity that if you run a good department, or show promise in your field, your efforts will not go unnoticed. This was apparent not only at the recognition of future leaders in college athletics through the John McClendon Scholarships, which provide scholarship support to future athletic administrators, but also at the Minority Opportunity Athletic Association and National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD) Diversity Initiative programs. As a past recipient of the NAADD Diversity Initiative award, which funded my participation in the conference’s fundamentals of athletic development workshop, I can tell you that the organization puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to promoting diverse participation.
I also had the privilege of watching my boss, Northwestern State Athletic Director Greg Burke, receive the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year award as one of 20 recipients from across the nation at the FBS, FCS, Divisions I, II, and III levels and NAIA. It was very interesting to look upon the dais, and out at the attendees of the honoree luncheon, and take note of how truly representative the group was of many different ethnic and gender groups.
It was an encouraging week, to say the very least, and one which provided instruction for the near term and hope for the future of college athletics.