Female coaches may be making strides in the pro leagues, but college sports are a different story.
Female coaches were all over the headlines this summer. First was Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs, who became the NBA’s first female head coach at Summer League—and brought home the League trophy. Then came the news that Nancy Lieberman will join Hammon in the NBA as assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings. And in football, Jen Welter was the first-ever woman to land a coaching internship in the NFL, though her gig has since ended.
But with school starting back up, some sports fans are now turning their attention back to college athletics. And on campus, the picture for female coaches is decidedly less rosy.
The percentage of women coached by women has declined to an all-time low, even while Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal dollars, has dramatically increased participation numbers for female athletes.
In 1972, when Title IX was signed into law, 90% of women’s college teams were coached by women, according to research from the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. By 2012, that number had fallen to 42.9%. Meanwhile, the percentage of women coaching men’s teams at the collegiate level has remained almost exactly the same—around 2%—for the last 40 years, according to Tucker.
The shift is one of the unintended consequences of Title IX, according to researchers. With more money flowing into women’s sports, some coaching positions at women’s teams have become more lucrative, and so drawn more interest from male coaches. These jobs are also seen as valuable “layovers” for male collegiate coaches who are waiting for chance to “move up” into the men’s leagues.
“It’s pretty dire,” says Nicole M. LaVoi, Tucker’s associate director. “It’s a complex answer to why that is, but I think at the heart of it is power.”
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