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Field Studies: NCAA Athletic Director Hiring Criteria and Career Pathways from 2010-19

Volume 3 Issue 1

Abstract

Black, Indigenous, and people of Color leaders in sport face an uphill battle when trying to reach the highest levels of leadership. There are related outcomes for White women as well. Previously, we have found that collegiate and professional head football coaches who are Black men are required to have more and better success in directly relevant experiences. The purpose of this field study was to examine hiring patterns for athletic directors over a ten-year window between 2010 and 2019. Data were analyzed to compare total numbers and percentages of athletic directors hired across race/ethnicity and gender. We found what we expected: race/ethnicity and gender continue to serve as mediating factors in athletic director hires. Results provide evidence that race/ethnicity and gender do matter, but not in isolation – there is an intersection of race/ethnicity and gender that favors men over women and Whites over BIPOC athletic directors. More research is needed to understand the experiences of Black women, as well as Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native and Indigenous men and women, who are nearly or wholly absent.

Introduction

Black, Indigenous, and people of Color leaders in sport face an uphill battle when trying to reach the highest levels of leadership (Shropshire, 1996). There are related outcomes for White women as well Walker et al., 2017). White head coaches who are men, on the other hand, have had a broader range of experiences, including no collegiate or professional playing experience, and are able to navigate to the head coach/manager position from a variety of prior jobs and sport experiences (Madden, 2004; Madden & Ruther, 2010). In our past research, the Global Sport Institute found that head coaches who are White men have equal or longer tenures and more second chances at equivalent head coaching positions than coaches of Color. We also found that collegiate and professional head football coaches who are Black men are required to have more and better success in directly relevant experiences (Brooks et al., 2019; Brooks et al., 2020). They are also overwhelmingly former athletes, and moreover, former elite athletes.

In short, head coaches who are White men have the freedom to develop their own pathways to becoming a leader, while BIPOC head coaches and managers who are men have limited pathways, more criteria to meet, and fewer opportunities. We, at the Global Sport Institute, want to know if race/ethnicity is a mediating factor for athletic directors. Similarly, but uniquely, we consider intersectionality by looking at gender and race/ethnicity. We consciously provide data for women, which are often mischaracterized to describe the fate of all women (including Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinas). In addition, we consider all colleges and universities, then disaggregate Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the data.

Our study finds that race/ethnicity and gender do matter, but not in isolation – there is an intersection of race/ethnicity and gender that favors men over women and Whites over BIPOC athletic directors (and candidates). More specifically, we see (an adaptation from the classic Black feminist saying), “most of the BIPOC are men and most of the women are White.”

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