Multiple Division I athletic directors sign Collegiate Coaching Diversity Pledge

Multiple Division I athletic directors have signed a pledge to diversify their hiring pools. According to Jason Belzer, founder of Athletic Director U, 30 Division I athletic directors have signed the Collegiate Coaching Diversity Pledge, which was announced on Sunday.

To adhere to the pledge, schools "must have a finalist pool that includes at least one candidate from a traditionally underrepresented background and one non-diverse candidate" in men's basketball, women's basketball and football, per the pledge's website.

The list of signees includes New Orleans athletic director Tim Duncan, Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, George Mason athletic director Brad Edwards, Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh and Loyola Maryland athletic director Donna Woodruff.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork is the only Power 5 leader who has signed the pledge thus far, according to Belzer, who said he has reached out to schools in every Division I conference.

Belzer said the pledge will give more minority candidates opportunities to avoid becoming "token" candidates and get legitimate chances to compete for jobs. He added that "widespread adoption" of the pledge would lead to swift change in collegiate sports.

The NCAA has traditionally responded to all similar concepts centered on diversity by saying it cannot enforce any rule due to the landscape's collection of both public and private schools and the legal hurdles it would entail.

"Nothing hurts more than to be courted and thinking you're a serious candidate and then finding out you're not," Belzer said.

The pledge follows the West Coast Conference's debut of "The Russell Rule," which will require an underrepresented candidate among the finalists for each opening in the league. Dr. Richard Lapchick, who authors report cards with regard to diversity for collegiate and professional sports, will create a report for the league every year to ensure compliance.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association jointly endorsed the WCC's pledge, which was announced last month.

The Collegiate Coaching Diversity Pledge demands that each school create a fair interview process for every candidate.

"We're not trying to position this as a panacea or a silver bullet," said UC Davis athletic director Kevin Blue, who helped create the pledge. "It's an active step in the right direction."

A "board of coaches" will work to promote the pledge throughout collegiate sports, and a "board of advocates" will work with a third party to randomly select a group of schools each year and review their compliance.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who worked under former President Barack Obama, said he agreed to join the board of advocates because the pledge demands accountability and extends beyond some of the platitudes and statements that were made following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Duncan also said the pledge will help the next generation of leaders who will use Division I athletics as a springboard to their careers after sports.

"What did Jackie Robinson do for baseball? He made baseball better," Duncan said about the value of diversifying hiring pools in collegiate athletics. "We need more Jackie Robinson moments."

Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann, a member of the board of advocates, said he got involved with the pledge because he believes it can effect change in Division I sports.

"The CCDP helps create total equity in the hiring process by giving every candidate a chance to have a seat at the table," Holtmann told ESPN. "This is a solution-based initiative intended to increase diversity among the final candidate pool. If there is significant participation, I believe this will ultimately lead to increased head-coaching opportunities."