During March, Joe Castiglione is perhaps best recognized as chair of the selection committee for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. But people who have worked with Castiglione in his role as University of Oklahoma athletics director hail him as someone who consistently promotes and practices diversity and inclusion.

The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee is recognizing Castiglione as this quarter’s Champion of Diversity and Inclusion due to his work building an important pipeline of ethnic minorities in college athletics administration. Former Castiglione aides who are ethnic minorities saluted him for his tireless mentoring efforts.

“Joe Castiglione’s success (at Oklahoma) epitomizes the true essence of leadership in our industry,” said Brandon Martin, who is athletics director at California State University, Northridge, and formerly was an associate athletics director at Oklahoma. “He has remained committed to his core values and prioritized the advancement of diversity and inclusion within the athletics department and campus community. I am fortunate to have worked for such a great man and leader.”

One of Castiglione’s most notable initiatives at Oklahoma is the Athletics Diversity Council Graduate Assistant Program, which rotates four diverse graduate students through various roles within the athletics department to gain practical work experience while earning master’s degrees.

China Jude, chair of the Champions of Diversity Subcommittee, said Castiglione’s priorities serve as a sound example for college sports administration.

“The committee was extremely impressed,” Jude said about Castiglione’s advancement programs for graduate students as well as full-time administrators. “He has created this pipeline for ethnic minorities to succeed, and other FBS athletics directors should consider these initiatives and strategies.”

Gloria Nevarez, senior associate commissioner and senior woman administrator for the Pac-12 Conference, credited Castiglione for the lessons he imparted. He “truly values and works hard to embrace diversity,” she said. “I am grateful for his support and friendship in my career and the opportunities he afforded me.”

Castiglione moved to Oklahoma in 1998 after serving for 17 years in the athletics department at the University of Missouri, Columbia, including nearly five as director. A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he is a 1979 graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Derrick Gragg, now athletics director at The University of Tulsa, was hired by Castiglione about 20 years ago at Missouri. Gragg quickly gained a deep appreciation for Castiglione’s knowledge and standards.

“I have experienced his commitment to fairness firsthand,” Gragg said. “Not only has Joe actively recruited ethnic minorities for his staffs on a consistent basis, several of them have gone on to assume prestigious positions within college athletics. I can think of no one more deserving of this prestigious honor.”