The University of Kansas recently hired a director for its athletics department. His name is Travis Goff.
“This is my destination job,” he said, when introduced to the public.
Goff is 41 years old. He graduated from KU in 2002. He has never been an athletic director.
He is also, to absolutely no one’s surprise, a man. A white man.
In its 110-year-plus history, KU has never hired a woman to run its athletics department. This is highly frustrating, but it is not unusual. The University of Missouri in Columbia has never had a woman athletic director, either. Nor has Kansas State University.
According to NCAA data, no school in the Big 12 Conference currently employs a woman as athletic director. It’s men, all the way down.
About a year ago, Vanderbilt University hired Candace Storey Lee to run its athletics department. The other 13 athletics departments in the Southeastern Conference are run by men.
There are no Black athletic directors in the Big 12, either. No Black person, and no woman of any race, has ever served as an AD at KU.
KU officials said they talked with women, and candidates of color, during their search for a new AD. “The search process included discussions with a wide range of candidates from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, and from across the country,” said an email from Joe Monaco, associate vice chancellor of public affairs at the university.
Yet it isn’t clear how hard the school looked. There are 52 female athletic directors currently working at Division 1 schools, the NCAA says. There are 55 Black ADs at Division 1 schools, including the University of Maryland, UCLA, Auburn and Ohio State.
It’s impossible to believe that KU was unable to find a qualified woman, or a qualified Black candidate, to run its athletics department.
Why is this important? Why does this sorry record need to change?
Almost half of the athletes at Division 1 universities are women. In the Big 12, more than 2,800 women compete in basketball, soccer, softball and other sports. Yet the resources for women’s teams often pale in comparison with those for men, a situation a woman AD would more clearly understand.
The NCAA was brutalized in March for its treatment of women in its Division 1 basketball tournament. Equipment was substandard. The food was unacceptable. The men were treated like royalty; the women, like an afterthought.
More women in positions of authority in college sports would change that equation.
Having a woman at the top might change attitudes in the locker room, too. KU’s former football coach Les Miles left his job after credible allegations surfaced of inappropriate behavior with women employees at his former job in Louisiana.
Former KU athletic director Jeff Long hired Miles. He quit after facing a storm of criticism for failing to fully vet Miles before putting him on the payroll.
“I … asked coach Miles … whether there was anything in the past that could potentially embarrass the university, or himself or our program,” Long said at the time. “He said no.”
Does anyone think a woman athletic director would have accepted Miles’ claims at face value? No. Is it possible a woman AD might have tried just a little bit harder to find the truth? Yes.
The lack of Black ADs in local schools is equally ridiculous. More Black student-athletes play Division 1 football than white ones. Black basketball players outnumber white players in Division 1 by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
Black athletes, by any measure, are primarily responsible for the torrent of cash pouring into athletics departments across the country. That money, in turn, pays for other sports.
Yet 71% of men’s head basketball coaches are white. Four of five head football coaches are white. And four of five ADs are white.
Brandon Martin, the head of the athletics department and a vice chancellor at UMKC, is at the front of an effort to promote more Black administrators in schools around the nation.
He co-chairs the Black AD Alliance. “Things need to improve in terms of opportunities for Black athletic administrators,” he said last year, understating the case.
The NCAA’s record in protecting collegiate athletes is under assault, and for good reason. Its record is abysmal. Athletes are beginning to recognize their power, and are using it, as they should.