Why has number of women coaches fallen since Title IX?

Posted by Amey Doyle on February 25, 2015
Why has number of women coaches fallen since Title IX?

Weeks following University of Minnesota Duluth's announcement to 'let go' Women's Hockey Head Coach Shannon Miller along with the rest of her coaching staff shock still exists for many current and former players.   An interesting article in the sports section of USA Today talks about the decrease in female coaches in women's college sports over the last decade.  Do you think this is a problem?

Erika True hears the stories.

Women coaches being forced out of their NCAA jobs. The reasons from the schools' athletic administrators are politically correct.

Tight budget. Not enough wins. Coaching philosophy doesn't fit the university. Need to go in another direction.

True thinks she knows what direction that is: Toward a man.

"There are an absolute ton of heartbreaking stories that I hear day in and day out about females that are being forced out," said True, the head coach of women's soccer at Indiana State University. "There is a stigma that females are not as good as or as strong of coaches as their male counterparts."

On the courts and fields, women college athletes have made great strides.

But in the coaching ranks, something drastically different is happening. Female coaches are losing ground.

Ironically, the drop started with a law that was supposed to be positive for women, Title IX. Congress passed the law in 1972 that required gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that received federal funding, including athletics.

Since Title IX, however, the percentage of women coaches at the college level has dropped precipitously. Fourty-three years ago, 90 percent of all women's teams were coached by women, according to Acosta and Carpenter's Women in Intercollegiate Sport study. Today, that number is 40 percent, according to NCAA Research. The number of women coaching men's teams is minuscule with fewer than 300 nationwide — less than 2 percent.

At Indiana's 10 Division I schools, no women coach men's teams. Perhaps more startling is the lack of women coaching women's teams. Of the 96 women's teams at those schools, 31 have female head coaches. That's 32 percent, well below the national average.

The numbers are causing pause — and pondering — in the collegiate sports world. Why, in a day when women are making great gains in other careers, are women in coaching falling back?

There's no simple answer. It's a complicated dynamic with a variety of factors coming together, including discriminatory hiring practices, traditional social roles, a slant toward males in sports, stereotypes and, in some cases, the women themselves.

"I feel guilty"

The clock on the dashboard read 7:03 p.m. when Tracey Dorow slipped into the driver's seat of her car last Monday.

She had just coached an intense basketball practice at Valparaiso, as head of the women's team. The hours had passed quickly, her mind on defense, plays and how to turn around the team's losing record.

But as she started her car and saw that clock, the pangs set in.

"I can tell you right now I feel guilty," said Dorow, the mother of 6- and 3-year-olds, as she drove home. "I'm going to get home at 7:15 at night and it's going to be their bedtime at 8.

"Sometimes you wonder if it's all worth it."

Sometimes, Dorow does think about opting out. She has no doubt why the number of women coaches has dropped. It's virtually impossible to find a work-life balance as a head coach. Travel, evening practices and games, weekend recruiting.

Ultimately, she said, women, more so than men, feel the weight of children and home life on their shoulders.

"I feel like men are driven by work and women are driven by relationships," Dorow said. "The No. 1 reason (there is a lack of women coaches) is because women are mothers."

The statistics back up her thoughts: Though fathers represent an increasing share of stay-at-home parents, they still comprise just 16 percent of such parents in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.

Dorow feels lucky. At Valparaiso, the administration knows her family comes first. She can leave early or come in late, or delegate duties to her assistant coaches.

"Some women don't have the opportunity to have that flex time and don't feel they can do both," she said. "They don't feel they can have a family and coach."

"Suddenly the men wanted these jobs"

In 1972, women were mothers and had families. Yet, they made up 90 percent of women's teams' coaches.

But there was a major difference. Women's teams then were few and far between. They didn't have the funding, the status or the pressure to win that they do today. Many had volunteer coaches.

Women's athletics weren't even offered by the NCAA. Instead, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women governed female college sports.

Still, by 1978, the year the federal government designated as the deadline for compliance with Title IX, the number of women's athletic teams at all levels had more than doubled — from an average of about 2.5 teams to 5.6 teams per school.

That created plenty of new coaching positions in women's sports. But the percentage of women coaching women's teams dropped from 90 percent to 58.2 percent in those six years, according to the Women in Intercollegiate Sport report. That share has steadily fallen since.

By 1982, all divisions of the NCAA offered national championship events for women and most members of the AIAW joined the NCAA.

"Now you have better-trained athletes, better programs, you're coaching outstanding women," said Katherine Mowat, women's golf coach at Ball State University. "You've created a more appealing job for a male. Suddenly the men wanted these jobs."

Unlike women's team coaching jobs of the past, these positions came with money. Salaries high enough to support a family. And they've only risen in the past decades with high profile positions demanding six-figure incomes and more. Former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt finished her career making more than $2 million.

"Men are going for these jobs aggressively," Mowat said. "I've heard before at other institutions, 'We wanted to hire a female but our most qualified candidate was male.' "

That's the case at Evansville, which fares the poorest among Indiana Division I schools in representation of female head coaches. The school has eight women's teams, with only soccer coached by a woman, Krista McKendree, who recently had her contract extended.

There have been opportunities to bring in more women with hires in women's basketball, volleyball, women's tennis and softball the past four seasons.

"We are cognizant when making all of our hires and look to fill the position with the best candidates for our student-athletes," said Bob Pristash, sports information director.

It's not that there aren't plenty of women who are part of Evansville's teams. Two of the three women's basketball assistants are female. In both softball and volleyball, the assistants are women and those sports also have female graduate assistants.

"Our primary goal when searching for a head coach is to find the best candidate who will accept the compensation that we are able to offer," Pristash said. "All of our coaching searches are competitive and inclusive of both sexes and all races. In some cases, it is a case of demand over supply."


Recommended articles