The NCAA and Its Women-Coaches Problem

Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history.

April 08, 2013

As the championship game approaches and March Madness begins its exciting climax, there are things worth celebrating. Female athletes like Baylor University’s Brittney Griner are bringing more attention and a bigger audience to women’s sports. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even said he’d consider drafting Griner this year. And while women’s college basketball still isn’t as profitable as men’s, it’s getting better. According to a recent Forbes article, 21 women’s teams out-earned their schools’ men’s teams last year.

But those successes shouldn’t make us forget about the work that still needs to be done. Aside from the sexist perceptions that surround women’s sports (we’ve all heard how women’s sports just aren’t as competitive or entertaining as men’s — untrue in my humble opinion), there is a serious issue going mostly unaddressed: the huge gender disparity in head coaches.

I say mostly unaddressed because there are those trying to call attention to the issue. AAUW honored Natalie Randolph as a Woman of Distinction at the 2011 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders for becoming the first female varsity boys’ head football coach. In the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Outlook, we celebrated the successes of Title IX but highlighted some areas still needing work, including the trend of women coaches losing jobs to men. The occasional journalist will also weigh in on the issue.

But still, the numbers aren’t improving. The U.S. Sports Academy notes that while Title IX increased women’s participation in college sports 500 percent between 1972 and 2011, the percentage of female head coaches for women’s teams went from 90 to 42.6 in the same period.

NCAA player Candace Wiggins

Women’s opportunities as college athletes have increased, but women coaches are scarce.

Those numbers might not be so bad if we’d also seen an increase in the number of women holding head coaching positions for men’s teams, but that hasn’t happened. According to the U.S Department of Education, women held only about 3.6 percent of head coaching positions in NCAA men’s sports in 2011, zero of which were in basketball. And let’s not forget that coaches of men’s college teams earn, on average, double what the coaches of women’s teams make.

And before anyone starts saying women aren’t as competitive or good at coaching as men, I’d like to point out that Pat Summitt, the former head coach for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers, is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. Summitt had 1,098 wins and only 208 losses, led her team to eight championship titles, and was the only coach to lead her team to every NCAA tournament since it began in 1982. So yes, women do make great coaches.

I would love to see a woman coaching an NCAA men’s basketball team or — gasp — an NBA team. Of course, unless I suddenly inherit a vast fortune and buy a team, I can’t make it happen today. But we can all work to broaden minds by starting a discussion. And we can let the NCAA know that Title IX cannot be forgotten when it comes to coaches. Contact the NCAA if you agree, or tweet at them @NCAA.

This post was written by AAUW Media Relations Intern Kristi Grim.

By:   |   April 08, 2013


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