Virginia men’s basketball head coach Tony Bennett is one of the 36 collegiate head coaches partnering with the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation to launch the McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative (MLI). Bennett’s wife, Laurel, also is involved in the partnership, which was announced Monday.
Spearheaded by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, the coach-driven initiative aims to give minorities more opportunities within sports administration. The initiative hopes to offer practical experiences as well as network-building opportunities for minorities in the field.
Future participants in the program will be referred to as MLI Future Leaders. Laurel and Tony Bennett are ambassadors for the MLI, and they’ll fund a future leader.
“There are so many well-qualified minorities that are very deserving of this opportunity,” Tony Bennett said in a release. “My wife and I are honored to be a part of this initiative.”
UVa’s athletic department “plans to be a part of the MLI starting with the 2020-21 athletics season,” according to the release.
The goal of the initiative is to provide opportunities within athletic departments for minorities interested pursuing careers in athletics administration. To help that come to fruition, the McLendon Foundation, G3 Marketing and ProLink Staffing Services are expected to help find collegiate coaches and administrators to help build out the program.
The Joel Cornette Foundation is planning on providing corporate mentorship and job placement services.
The John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation is named after John McLendon, a former basketball coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member. McLendon became the first Black head coach at predominantly white institution in 1966 when he was hired at Cleveland State University.
This new initiative will work to build upon the previous work of his foundation, which provides postgraduate scholarships to minorities pursuing graduate degrees in athletics administration.
“The McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative is a huge step in the right direction for enhancing the pipeline within our industry,” Andrea Williams, the McLendon Foundation President and College Football Playoff COO, said in a release. “There are many qualified minority individuals who are prepared to make their mark and begin their careers in college athletics, and this program, jumpstarted by Kentucky coach John Calipari, is a great foundation to build on.”