Harvard Men’s Basketball Coach Tommy Amaker was named today as a 2020 Champion for Diversity and Inclusion by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Amaker was selected for his longstanding leadership on social justice and for investing in the success of his players on and off the court.
“I consider myself a teacher first. I have a responsibility to see my players not just as athletes but as future leaders, as well, so if I’m doing my job, they’re going to be developing and learning and growing Beyond the 94 x 50,” Amaker said. “At Harvard, we have built a program and an environment for players, coaches, and staff that values diversity of experience and perspective, and creates safe spaces for all of us to learn and grow together. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that creating those conditions and making space for that conversation is more important than ever.”
The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, in conjunction with the Office of Inclusion, created this award in 2015 to recognize those who have a commitment to advocating for and advancing others in inclusive efforts around athletics.
In recognizing Coach Amaker, the Committee pointed to his work in convening important conversations about issues like race and diversity, and building a robust network of mentors and role models for his players through efforts like The Breakfast Club, an initiative he launched with renowned Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree where student athletes get to meet notable business leaders and social activists like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and basketball legend and social justice champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“In addition to coaching, Amaker has introduced his athletes to cultural programs and ceremonies that focus on positive role models. He has engaged his team in chat sessions with Harvard faculty, staff and other influential minorities who provide encouragement and positive advice. He also facilitated career placement opportunities for minority interns in athletics. His team’s road trips also have been educational experiences. Teams have visited historical memorials and cultural exhibits and were introduced to inspirational Harvard alumni who have shared their life experiences,” the Committee writes.
Beyond Harvard, Amaker is a Board member for the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), where he co-chairs their Committee on Racial Reconciliation. He is also a force behind the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, which is designed to give young people of color more opportunities to work in athletic departments throughout the higher education landscape.
Amaker serves on the Board of Overseers for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, is an Executive Fellow at Harvard Business School, is part of the Hauser Leaders Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and is a Special Assistant to Harvard University President Larry Bacow.
Honored alongside Coach Amaker this year as Champions for Diversity and Inclusion are Jen Fry, a community supporter and founder of JenFryTalks; Allen Greene, athletics director at Auburn University; Jacqie McWilliams, commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association; and John Nicklow, president of the University of New Orleans. All of the Champions of Diversity and Inclusion will be formally recognized at the 2021 Inclusion Forum, which will be held virtually June 2-4.