NEW YORK, N.Y. — Athlete Ally released their updated version of the 2017 Athletic Equality Index (AEI), a first-of-its-kind ranking and reporting of the LGBTQ inclusiveness of all 65 member institutions of the NCAA’s Power 5 conferences. New data looks at how schools are best meeting, or failing to meet, the needs of LGBTQ student-athletes, fans, coaches, staff and administrators in 2019.

LGBTQ athletes are twice as likely to drop out of sports as their straight, cisgender peers, and LGBTQ students are nine times less likely to have complaints of homophobia or transphobia addressed under the Trump administration. Universities have an opportunity to provide LGBTQ student-athletes with a space in which they can thrive, and the AEI gives them a blueprint for how best to achieve this.

As a result of the 2017 AEI, more than 25 schools adopted inclusion policies, and the number of schools with transgender-inclusive athletic policies quadrupled.

“It’s hard for trans athletes to know in advance exactly what kind of experience they’ll have at their school, which can make the college selection process even more stressful,” said the University of Montana’s June Eastwood, the first transgender NCAA Division I Cross Country runner. “Through the AEI, students can see if the schools they’re considering have the policies and resources in place to make them feel welcomed for who they are.” The Pac-12 is again the conference with the highest average score (83.5) with Big 10 just .2 behind (83.3), and the SEC is the lowest with an average of 65.6. The number of schools with a perfect score has tripled, with Duke University, the University of Miami (ACC); Ohio State University, the University of Indiana, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Big 10); the University of Texas at Austin (Big 12); the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California (Pac 12) leading the way forward.

The major change in this iteration of the AEI is the measure of cross-campus partnerships and of LGBTQ events. While in 2017 schools were awarded full points for making collaborations possible between athletic departments and campus LGBTQ groups, this iteration looked at whether those collaborations actually occurred. This version also looks at LGBTQ events hosted within the past year, not just if an event had ever occurred.

“The AEI paints a picture of the kind of environment LGBTQ student-athletes, fans, coaches, staff and administrators face in 2019,” said Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. “It’s our hope that through this data, we can showcase best practices, highlight areas of improvement, and work to make athletic spaces more welcoming and inclusive for all.”

The report is available online.


Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.