Martin Jarmond Named First Black Athletic Director In UCLA’s 101-Year History

I really want to feel happy inside about stories like this. Seeing Black people break through racial and corporate color barriers is a good thing, but only if it eventually leads to an overall change of attitudes in hiring.  

It’s 2020 and race-based hiring is still in full effect. The word “pioneer” means that you are breaking new ground. It also shows how far people of color still have to go, especially in gaining positions of leadership in athletics and other corporate entities in America. 

While I’m ecstatic that Martin Jarmond was hired Sunday to become the Bruins’ first African American athletic director in the school’s 101-year history, replacing longtime department boss Dan Guerrero, it’s shame that it has taken this long for the school to find a qualified African-American candidate. 

Especially considering that African-Americans make up the majority of players in the major D-1 sports and in 2018, Buffalo’s Mark Alnutt became just the 15th Black AD at an FBS school, after he spent almost three years at Memphis, where he helped raise more than $40 million for the athletic department

Jarmond takes over at a “Power Five” school (65 institutions including the members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12 and football-independent Notre Dame) which is part of a “behemoth of a system largely dominated by white men who become embarrassingly rich by trafficking bodies in the “high-revenue” sports of football and basketball dominated by black athletes.”

Jarmond, who already broke ground in 2017, when he became the first Black AD in Boston College history after 15 years as an administrator in the Big Ten Conference — where he worked at both Ohio State and Michigan State — will become the highest-paid athletic director at a public school in the Pac-12 Conference by a considerable margin after signing a six-year contract.

The new deal pays him $1.2 million in the first year and rises to $1.7 million in the final year. An announcement of Jarmond’s hiring will come today and he will be eventually introduced on-line. 

Some people see this as progress and in a way it is. Others consider Jarmond’s hiring an aberration. 

He’s already a trailblazer as the youngest athletic director in the Power Five conferences and takes over a department where all six of his predecessors were white or Latino men. 

The Grind 

Jarmond, who turns 40 in November, becomes the first UCLA  AD without ties to the school, dating back to 1919 when Fred Cozens was the first to fill the post. 

We are talking about a university that produced Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe, two of the most legendary civil rights pioneers in the history of America. They evolved into exceptional athletes, who used their platforms to help challenge the racial injustice that has traditionally infested our country.

However, when it comes to administrative and elite decision-making gigs, all the university has really done is reinforce the narrative that Black men can take orders, but can’t lead. 

Jarmond’s like a whiz kid. The kind of unbelievable that people of color have to be to even get considered for such a position. His reputation as a skilled fundraiser and UCLA’s desperation is what has elevated him to this point. 

After years of failed leadership, UCLA’s financial stability has been crumbling and now they are hoping that Jarmond’s brilliance can help lift them out of a 19.9 million financial deficit (as of the 2019 fiscal year).  The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to reduced revenue and donations which also threatens their 2020-21 sports schedule. 

“This is a great moment for UCLA,” tweeted Josiah Johnson, a former Bruins basketball player. “Hopefully the fan base is supportive.”

Tweeted Damien Woody, a former Boston College offensive lineman who won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots: “He’s the real deal. Dude brought new energy to BC athletics.”

Jarmond is a former two-time captain of the men’s basketball team at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, has elevated through the athletic-administration ranks after obtaining his business degree and a master’s in sports administration from Ohio University. 

He was an assistant athletic director for development and regional giving at Michigan State, where he worked for six years before going to Ohio State in 2009.

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