A small percentage of women are leading teams, and Title IX may be one of the reasons why
At no time in history have more women participated in intercollegiate athletics, and never before has a smaller percentage of women been in place to coach the participants. It's a paradox borne of several factors, not the least surprising of which is the impact of Title IX, the 30-year-old gender-equity legislation credited with helping level the playing field for female student-athletes.
"Everybody thinks that Title IX is just about athletics, but it's not," says Betty Jaynes, a former college coach and current consultant to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, where she served as CEO for 20 years. "It affects everything. Title IX opened up so many other areas within the institution to women, and it's great that women have new opportunities."
While Title IX is widely credited with creating opportunities to participate in sports that didn't exist prior to its passage in 1972, the resulting pool of women with collegiate playing experience has not translated into a reservoir of eager coaching candidates. "Today, most athletes are majoring in business, accounting or marketing and are looking at career opportunities within the business world," says Jennifer Alley, executive director of the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators. "I think they still hold a strong sports interest - they just don't necessarily pursue coaching."
It's a troubling trend, considering that fewer women coaches are now in position to mentor would-be successors. Says Alley, "That's one thing that several groups, including ours, are focusing on - the loss of the female role model from high school on."
Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter witnessed the genesis of this trend 25 years ago. The pair of former college coaches launched in 1977 what has become a biannual study titled "Women in Intercollegiate Sport," which chronicles the progress of women (or lack thereof) in terms of participation, coaching and administration - shedding light on Title IX's ongoing impact on collegiate athletics in the process.
In 1972, the year Title IX became law, more than 90 percent of coaches working in women's athletics were women. By 1978, the first year schools were expected to be in compliance with Title IX, the figure had dropped to 58.2 percent. Today's 44 percent figure, reported in the study's latest update released earlier this year, represents an all-time low. This comes at a time when schools are offering more women's sports teams (8.35 on average) than ever, according to the researchers. Moreover, women filled just 35 of the 361 new openings created for women's NCAA teams in the two years since the study's previous update. "It's kind of a 'good news, bad news' story," says Acosta. "The good news is that participation is up. The bad news is that women are not looking to coaching as a profession, and it's because young women have more opportunities for jobs in other professions."
Changing times have given, yet they've also taken away. In the 1960s, physical education instruction was a booming degree track that launched countless coaching careers. Since then, most states have dropped their high school P.E. requirements. Consequently, colleges no longer need to crank out graduates who can teach gym class. "The training ground is absolutely gone," says Jaynes, a 1967 P.E. graduate. Back then, she adds, "The chances of me coaching because of that degree would be 95 percent."
With career options come money decisions, and salary concerns are believed to have led many women to sidestep the sidelines. Recent studies conducted by the WBCA and the NCAA reveal that salaries paid to coaches of women's teams are significantly lower than those paid to their counterparts in men's athletics. The WBCA's 2001 Division I salary survey, based on information provided by women's basketball coaches, found that those coaches typically earned $30,000 less than the men's coach at their school. They also worked with an operating budget roughly $30,000 smaller (even while fewer women's teams benefited from contracts providing them with free shoes and apparel), and made do with smaller recruiting and travel budgets. In addition, women's coaches were less likely to enjoy perks such as country club memberships, performance bonuses and personal appearance contracts. The NCAA study, which examined all sports during the 19992000 academic year, painted a similarly disparate picture. Among its findings: Division I-A men's teams received 62 percent of all dollars spent on head coaches and 74 percent of the funds spent on assistant coaches.
That said, compensation has improved tremendously since the pre-Title IX days, when women often volunteered as coaches out of pure dedication to their sports. During what she calls the "dark ages," Acosta coached varsity and junior-varsity teams simultaneously without pay, assistants or release time from teaching - all things men received at the time. However, according to the WBCA salary survey, while the pay gap between the coaches of women's and men's basketball teams has hovered around $30,000 since 1995, both salaries have steadily increased. By 2001, coaches of women's Division I teams were earning an average base salary of $86,119, the WBCA estimates. That's good news, though in itself a potential catch-22.
"With the boosting of salaries because of Title IX, women's coaching openings became appealing to a lot of people - not just to women, but to men. And athletic administrators opened up those jobs, not necessarily requiring a woman coach, but looking at anyone who was qualified to coach women's basketball," says Jaynes. "That didn't happen on the other side. If there were openings for men's basketball coaches, administrators would never really give a female a chance." According to the Acosta/Carpenter study, the percentage of women coaches among men's teams of any kind has remained below 2 percent for the past three decades.
While Title IX currently dictates that the percentages of male and female student-athletes roughly mirror the gender breakdown of a school's overall student enrollment, it mentions nothing about proportioning the gender of coaches. Nor should it, according to Acosta. "I don't think we would like to see the government telling institutions who they have to hire when gender is involved," she says. "However, we would like to see more athletic directors taking the bull by the horns and saying, 'Look, we need to find the best women for our programs. We need to encourage our women athletes to go into the coaching profession.' I don't think that's happening."
Both Acosta and Carpenter take issue with the hiring strategies of athletic directors - four out of five of whom are male, their findings show. Says Carpenter, "When athletic directors want a new coach for men's basketball, they will find out who the best person is and what it will take to bring him on campus - money, car, low-interest mortgage, golf club membership, whatever. The same athletic director may be committed to equity but will not recruit for women's jobs the same way. If he doesn't recruit, salaries don't go up. And if salaries don't go up, women are not about to apply. Part of it is that the women aren't applying because they have other choices, but part of it is also that the money isn't there."
Jaynes disagrees. "That's the way it used to be, but I see that trend changing," she says. "It may not be true with other sports, but as women's basketball becomes more visible, more ADs know they've got to do well with it. Those at the top-20 level are paying a great deal of money in salaries. They want to be very sure who they're hiring, and they're keeping a shortlist of people in their pocket." Through the first week of May, women had already been hired to fill half of the 48 available Division I women's basketball openings, while men had been tabbed for 13 of the jobs.
But whether coaches and athletic directors are doing enough to advance the cause of women is still open to debate. An NCAA-sponsored diversity training workshop scheduled to take place March 27 at the WBCA annual convention in San Antonio was cancelled due to lack of interest. "I don't think that we're completely educated in diversity training yet," says Jaynes, who's disappointed but undeterred. "We'll continue to put that high up there as one of our flags that we wave, to continue to try to provide some type of educational framework."
Carpenter suggests a more direct approach, in which colleges and advocacy groups alike encourage women coaches to attend career days at junior and senior high schools. She would like to see more colleges host day camps and sports clinics for kids, allowing collegiate student-athletes to experience coaching firsthand. "We really see great coaching potential at basketball camp," says Stanford University head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in April. "I never played high school basketball. Now you've got kids who have played since they were five years old. They understand the game, and they would be great teachers of the game."
"We need to help these women taste the joy that comes from coaching, even though the starting pay is lousy and the hours are long," Carpenter says. "Once they taste it, even for a day, it finds its way onto their list of things to think about the rest of their lives."