Study: College sports still trail pros in diversity hiring

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A diversity study for racial and gender hiring across college sports found little change in scores that continue to lag behind the professional ranks.

Wednesday’s report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida assigned an overall C-plus grade, a B for racial hiring and a C-plus for gender hiring for the 2019-20 sports season. Those were the same grades from last year in the report, which examines a range of positions including leadership at the NCAA headquarters, conference commissioners, athletics directors and head coaches across Divisions I, II and III.

The numeric scores fluctuated slightly and remained at the higher end since researchers revised the grading scale for the 2015-16 report to account for changing national demographics.

But they again trailed those of professional leagues reviewed in other TIDES studies: the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA. And it followed last month’s study that reported a significant “underrepresentation” of women and people of color in leadership positions at the Football Bowl Subdivision level of college athletics.

More concerning, lead report author and institute director Richard Lapchick said, was the fact that there has been little progress in many areas from a decade or more ago.

“When you put it in a historical perspective of some of the really important positions, the numbers are barely moving” from past years, Lapchick said in an interview with The Associated Press.

This year’s study found declines in people of color serving as head coaches for all men’s and women’s Division I teams overall, as well as men’s and women’s basketball specifically. The percentage of Division I football head-coaching positions held by people of color increased slightly to 10.6%, up from 10.3% a year earlier.

The study also found that white men continue to hold most positions as athletics director in Division I (72.3%), Division II (70.8%) and Division III (61.6%).

The NCAA headquarters earned high marks with a B-plus in racial hiring for both senior leadership and professional positions, along with an A-plus for gender in each area.

The report’s overall score was a 78.6, down from a 78.7 a year earlier. That came after the racial hiring score (80.2) fell 1.4 points while the gender hiring score (77) climbed 1.2 points.

Still, the lack of broader progress over years stood out.

Lapchick said 76.3% of administrators at the NCAA headquarters are white, a figure that remains almost unchanged from 2000 (76.6%). Whites held 86.5% of positions as Division I conference commissioners for the 2007-08 sports year, and that figure now stands at 86.7%. And women have gone from holding 39.5% of positions as head coach for women’s teams across all three divisions for the 2010-11 season to 41% today, he said.

In a statement, Derrick Gragg, NCAA senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement, said the report highlights that “there is still much work to do to infuse inclusion and equality further into athletics.” Gragg also said the NCAA headquarters has worked to diversify its senior leadership while creating the NCAA Leadership Collective to help schools identify minority job candidates.

“As organizations work to provide better diversity and inclusion, athletic leaders can also take significant steps to open more doors to people of color and women,” Gragg said. “There are too many diversity hiring gaps in college sports, and this racial and gender diversity report reveals that.”

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.