WCC Adopts "Russell Rule" to Promote Diversity Hiring

WCC adopts groundbreaking diversity hiring initiative as part of “We are Committed to Change” platform

 

SAN BRUNO, Calif. – The West Coast Conference is proud to announce the adoption of the “Russell Rule” as the first conference-wide diversity hiring commitment in Division I. The “Russell Rule” is named in honor of WCC and NBA legend Bill Russell and is the main part of a groundbreaking series of initiatives implemented under the “We are Committed to Change” platform.
 
The “Russell Rule” requires each member institution to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the pool of final candidates for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coach position in the athletic department.

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The WCC has partnered with human rights activist and pioneer for racial equality, Dr. Richard Lapchick, the founder and Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), to develop an annual race and gender report card on the demographics at each WCC institution and the Conference office.
 
Russell, an 11-time NBA Champion, a two-time NCAA Champion and a Presidential Medal of Honor recipient as a life-long advocate for social justice, embraced the opportunity to promote equitable opportunities in college athletics.
 
“It is my hope the West Coast Conference initiative will encourage other leagues and schools to make similar commitments,” Russell stated. “We need to be intentional if we’re going to make real change for people of color in leadership positions in college athletics. I’m proud to assist the WCC and Commissioner Nevarez by endorsing this most important initiative.”
 
Led by Gloria Nevarez, the first Latinx Division I Commissioner, the WCC continues to be a trailblazer for change.
 
“The Russell Rule is the result of the groundbreaking work of the WCC Presidents’ Council and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee,” Nevarez said. “Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player and social justice advocate the nation has seen. He is a champion for change. It is our belief the WCC ‘Russell Rule’ will live up to his legacy. Our goal is that the diversity of our student-athletes is reflected in those that lead and mentor them and provides a holistic and inclusive education during their time at WCC institutions.
 
“We look forward to working with the WCC to enhance transparency to their diversity and inclusion efforts and to assist them as they become a role model for institutions and conferences everywhere,” Dr. Lapchick commented. “I am very appreciative of the leadership of Commissioner Gloria Nevarez, who got the approval of the Conference presidents to undertake the first conference-wide Racial and Gender Report Card.”
 
The “Russell Rule” is part of several significant initiatives associated with the “We are Committed to Change” platform that received unanimous support from the WCC Presidents’ Council.
 
“The West Coast Conference is committed to providing a diverse and inclusive environment that ensures equality and respect for everyone,” commented University of San Diego President James T. Harris, the chair of the WCC Presidents’ Council. “The WCC is a leader in establishing a diversity hiring commitment that speaks to the Conference’s core values of inclusion. The Conference has been committed to this work for many years, including the hiring of our Commissioner Gloria Nevarez, the first Latinx to lead a NCAA Division I athletic conference. Thanks to her leadership and the great work of the WCC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Presidents’ Council unanimously approved this groundbreaking new initiative.”
 
Led by Nevarez, the WCC is committed to providing an inclusive environment and developing initiatives that combat racism and social injustice. The “We are Committed to Change” platform will continue to guide conversations and actions in pursuance of equity, diversity and inclusion in the WCC.

We are Commited to Change
Initiatives

  • DIVERSITY HIRING COMMITMENT: The "Russell Rule" is the first conference-wide diversity hiring commitment in Division I. 
  • EDUCATION: Conference-wide series of antiracism educational webinars for coaches, administrators and student-athletes on June 29, 2020. Participants included more than 500 student-athletes and more than 400 coaches and administrators.
  • POLICY MAKING: The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDI), formed in 2019, will be expanded with representation from all 10 institutions. This group will feature a student-athlete subcommittee with representatives from each member. 
  • CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: A Civic Engagement Pledge to facilitate annual voter education and registration for student-athletes.
  • VIDEO CAMPAIGN: The “We are Committed to Change” video message, featuring representatives from all 10 institutions, will be played prior to WCC contests and will be included in WCC Network programming as well as digital and social platforms.
  • JUNETEENTH: Beginning in 2020, the Conference office observes Juneteenth as an official holiday.   

Diversity Hiring Commitment
Each member institution is required to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the pool of final candidates for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coach position in the athletic department. Each institution will submit a hiring report to the WCC Presidents’ Council including evidence of their efforts to comply with the “Russell Rule.”
 
Through its partnership with Dr. Lapchick and TIDES, the WCC will create an annual racial and gender report card named the “Russell Report” for each member institution and the Conference office. Each year, the WCC will publish the data on the race and gender demographics of all athletic directors, senior staff members, head coaches in all WCC sponsored sports and assistant coaches in men’s and women’s basketball for each institution as well as the Conference office.  
 
“We have been doing Report Cards since 1988 on the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLS, and college sports,” stated Dr. Lapchick. “In all cases, we have initiated those reports independently of the groups being analyzed. In this unique time of racial reckoning, the WCC has undertaken to reflect on its own record for hiring people of color and women in leadership positions.” 
 
Antiracism Educational Webinars 
On June 29, the WCC hosted an antiracism webinar titled “Navigating Antiracism: For Our Student-Athletes and Ourselves” for coaches and administrators at all 10 institutions with more than 400 participants. Later that same day, the WCC hosted “Starting the Conversation of Race and Antiracism in the WCC” webinar for more than 900 student-athletes. The webinar was also made available on-demand for all WCC student-athletes. The WCC partnered with Diversity and Inclusion experts Dr. Julie Shaw and Erica Ferguson for the series. Dr. Shaw, who previously served as a women’s basketball assistant coach at Gonzaga, and Ferguson will continue the dialogue with “Conversational Circles” as part of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee leadership sessions later in the summer.   
 
“The antiracism webinar was an important first step in fostering dialogue to ensure we are providing our student-athletes a holistic and inclusive education during their time at WCC institutions,” Nevarez said. 
 
“We all have an opportunity to take action, educate ourselves, and be a part of change,” Dr. Julie Shaw stated. “Being a Black woman who has served first-hand as a coach in the WCC and a former student-athlete myself, I appreciate being able to lend my voice, knowledge, and experiences to the efforts that the WCC is putting into empowering their student-athletes, coaches, and administrators to begin these overdue discussions about racism and injustice.
 
“Being able to combine my passions of sports and training to educate in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, I understand we are in the midst of a movement not a moment,” Erica Ferguson said. “The intersectionality of sports and society can have a huge impact and I’m looking forward to working alongside the WCC in leading the way to be a part of the change.”
 
Expansion of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
The WCC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which was formed in 2019 at the recommendation of Commissioner Nevarez, received unanimous support for expansion to include representatives from all 10 institutions (originally formed with six members) inclusive of Diversity Officers, student-athletes, head coaches, Directors of Athletics, Faculty Athletic Representatives and Senior Woman Administrators. The Presidents’ Council also approved the creation of an ad hoc committee consisting of a student-athlete representative from each member institution. 
 
Civic Engagement Pledge
A recommendation from the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, WCC institutions pledge to devote time to facilitate annual voter education sessions for student-athletes, either collectively or on a team basis. Education sessions will focus on federal, state, and local elections. Institutions will schedule sessions to be completed before voter registration deadlines.
 
We are Committed to Change WCC Video Message
As part of the “We are Committed to Change” platform, representatives from all 10 member institutions participated in a video message that will be shared prior to WCC athletic contests, on WCC Network broadcasts and men’s and women’s basketball games on regional sports networks as well as WCC contests on ESPN, CBS Sports Network and Stadium broadcasts.   

About West Coast Conference
Formed in 1952, The West Coast Conference membership includes Brigham Young, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara. The WCC has evolved and grown to become a bold force in NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics, nationally recognized for its competitiveness, energy and drive. Featuring 15 conference-sponsored sports, the WCC has gained unstoppable momentum with student-athletes who are relentless in their pursuit of greatness. Fiercely dedicated and highly engaged both in the classroom and on the court, these exceptional people are known for their passion and rigor. Characterized by the stability of its membership, commitment to innovation and unique emphasis on combining excellence in athletics with excellence in academics, the WCC continues to set the bar for excellence in collegiate athletics.
 
About the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) serves as a comprehensive resource for issues related to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sports. The Institute researches and publishes a variety of studies, including annual studies of student-athlete graduation rates and racial attitudes in sports, as well as the internationally recognized Racial and Gender Report Card, an assessment of hiring practices in coaching and sport management in professional and college sport. The Institute also monitors some of the critical ethical issues in college and professional sport, including the potential for exploitation of student-athletes, gambling, performance-enhancing drugs and violence in sport. TIDES is part of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the University of Central Florida's College of Business Administration.