Sports View by Ron Wynn
The recent hirings of Allen Greene and Carla Williams haven’t gotten nearly as much attention that they deserve, despite their historical significance. But their ascension to their new roles are critical events in the quest for more fairness and equity in hiring, especially at the college level. Greene was named Athletic Director at Auburn University two weeks ago, while Williams was named to that same position at the University of Virginia in October.
There has been so little progress when it comes to upper management in college sports that it often looks like none has occurred. During the 2016-17 college football season nearly 58 percent (57.6) of the participants in the SEC in football were Black. This basketball season the percentage is even higher (64.5).Yet in addition to Greene being the first Black AD in Auburn history, he becomes just the third in SEC history.
Williams is the first Black woman named to head the athletic program of a Power Five conference. There are currently 131 ADs at Football Subdivision (FBS) schools. She becomes just the 14th Black person to hold one of those jobs. Both Greene and Williams are very aware of how vital their positions are and their unique roles.
“I would be naive to sit here and think it doesn’t mean something significant,” Greene said recently. “I’m sure there are people out there watching. I’m sure of the 4,000 texts I have, people are very happy for me and for the bigger picture of our country.”
“I do understand and appreciate the historic nature of me being named Athletics Director at the University of Virginia,” Williams said. “I will continue to be a role model to help others reach their goal.”
Both Greene and Williams face tough challenges. Though Auburn is enjoying one of its greatest basketball seasons in history, it is facing the specter of NCAA sanctions and/or punishment. Greene may soon be faced with what to do about Bruce Pearl. Pearl is a master at in game strategy but lost his previous job at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. He has already refused to cooperate with the current investigation.
Williams’ challenge is more traditional. Though very competitive in basketball and baseball, Virginia has been overpowered in football by first Florida State, and more recently Clemson. Becoming more of a factor in the ACC, and by extension the national picture, is priority number one for the Williams regime.
But whatever the problems, both Allen Greene and Carla Williams have already won big victories by becoming Athletic Directors at major universities. Their tenure will indeed be closely watched across the country, and their track records, no matter whether good or bad, will be used to consider the fate of others who want to follow in their footsteps.