OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione spoke to reporters in a Zoom meeting Wednesday, discussing topics that ranged from the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, diversity in coaching hires, voting in the 2020 presidential election and further concerns about student athletes returning to campus and the fall schedule.
Here's what Castiglione had to say:
Castiglione was asked if the events involving the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity's viral racist video in 2015 have prompted the school to improve on race relations on campus.
OU's 2015 football team skipped practice, wore shirts that read, "Stronger Together" and marched in protest. This year, in response the killing of George Floyd, OU coaches and players have taken to public protests and social media to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I want to give credit to a lot of the student-athletes that participated in creating change as a result of that time," Castiglione said, "because it wasn't just one day, it was many days. And to a degree, the programs that we've had in place, the conversations, the ongoing sessions that we have with staff on a monthly basis. The conversations and safe spaces we've created for men of color and women of color, that have conversations on a weekly basis during the course of the year.
"We have our own diversity and inclusion committee within our department. This is a discussion item that obviously is part of our student leader groups. They're very, very active and engaged. But all that is maybe noteworthy to a point. It doesn't describe what we need to continue to do going forward. I really believe that we'll be able to be part of the solution in our community and to use our platforms wisely, but at the same time continue to better understand."
Diversity in coaching
Castiglione was asked about multiple aspects of the protests happening all over the nation, specifically about how these events can help bring attention to the hiring of men and women of color on a college's coaching staff. He admitted it's an ongoing process of learning to improve and grow diversity.
"We want to be inclusive. Period. And it's the effort to try to find the best people to serve in the roles that we have to offer, and then ... what they do in that role to fulfill their position and strengthen our culture. So it has been a priority for me (for) a long, long time. And there's always ways that we find that we can improve."
OU's July return and schedule concerns
With OU allowing student-athletes to return to campus July 1, players and coaches are now watching as different schools all over the nation have athletes returning this week. Schools like Alabama and Clemson allowed voluntary workouts on campus starting June 8.
Castiglione spoke on studying what these schools are doing while the program continues to wait almost a month longer than anyone else is.
"As we've gone on and watched other universities return to campus, yes, sure, we're learning a lot," Castiglione said. "So we want to be careful not to judge each and every (team) ... or paint any of the situations with a broad brush. But we can learn."
Castiglione also discussed the Army game scheduled for Sept. 26 at West Point. With traveling ability still an uncertainty, the Sooners are still planning to keep that date.
"There really isn't any change in the game itself, the date, the expectation," Castiglione said. "Now, don't get me wrong. We're fully aware and mindful of anything that could change that, at the moment. Whether that game happens or not, whether there's fans allowed to be in the stands or not, those are decisions that have not been made. There hasn't been any indication around any particular change related to that game or any game for that matter."