NCAA Sports Beyond the Spotlight: It’s About Community Outreach and Team Building
By Meta J. Mereday
This past collegiate season has been a heady one for NCAA sports to say the least. With conference changes that have impacted recruitment and donations nationwide, NCAA sports is reaching a pinnacle in media entertainment.
While football and basketball seem to lead the promotional pack of the association, there is more to NCAA sports than buzzer beating jump shots and off the field violations.
However, the crowds and excitement has grown tremendously and many professional hopes are tied to the performances rendered on any given night when the “winning is everything” motto made famous by legendary NFL Coach Vince Lombardi permeates the gridiron, basketball court and baseball diamond of NCAA sports events.
NCAA sports have become a beacon of hope for student athletes, but its history and its future is tied to its development of its leaders and coaches.
The NCAA came about at the turn of the 20th century as an attempt to regulate the rough, and often deadly play among football teams in the early 1900s. Changes in regulations and additions in other sports including baseball, basketball, track and field and other sports has resulted in the NCAA that we know today.
Further changes included the establishment of three legislative and competitive divisions in 1973 (Divisions I, II and III). In 1978, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA.
In 1980, NCAA sports were expanded again when the organization began to administer women’s athletics programs. So, on the field and off, NCAA sports has impacted the way the game is played, who plays it and who calls the shots. This is definitely evident in the NCAA’s actions to address the shortage of minorities and women in the leadership, administrative and coaching positions at its member institutions.
According to the NCAA website “diversity and inclusion is directly tied to the Association’s core values and is linked with the NCAA strategic plan. More specifically, diversity and inclusion’s efforts relate to the association’s core value of diversity, which urges member institutions, athletics conferences and governance groups to be committed to creating and supporting an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.”
What does the NCAA do to create the diversity and inclusion within its organization and member institutions that reflects those who bring such excitement to the public view of NCAA sports?
From grant programs for ethnic minorities and women that are designed to support efforts to increase awareness and opportunities to diversity education programs that provide understanding about multiculturalism, NCAA sports is working hard to break out of the perception of being an all-White male association.
The NCAA hosts events including a leadership fellows program that exposes student-athletes to a variety of activities that help them to build social responsibility and cultural awareness.
There is still a great deal of work to be done, but the NCAA is laying the groundwork for a good start. Academics, teamwork, leadership and cultural sensitivity may not be in the spotlight for NCAA sports, but the association is smoothing out its rough beginnings by building a diverse and inclusive infrastructure for the future.
Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.