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Original Issue

No Room at The Top

The prospects for women in college coaching and administrative jobs have become especially bleak

One of the surprising results of Title IX has been the gradual disappearance of women from the ranks of college coaches and sports administrators. In 1972, 90% of the coaches and administrators of women's college teams were female. By 1992, women accounted for only 48% of the coaches and 17% of the administrators. If the trend continues, in another 20 years there may be no women coaches at the college level. Meanwhile men hold 99% of the coaching and administrative jobs in men's college sports. What gives?

"We would like to find more women coaches," says Clarence Doninger, the athletic director at Indiana. "But frankly, the pool we draw from has a lot more men in it, some with more experience."

But others view the situation differently. "You can't look at the statistics and not conclude that there is a serious discrimination problem," says Ellen Vargyas, a lawyer for the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. "Not that every time a woman doesn't get a job, it's a case of sex discrimination. But don't tell me there are fewer than 10 women in this country qualified to run a Division I-A athletic program. This is not about qualifications."

Why aren't more women hired? Agreeing with Vargyas, Linda Carpenter, a professor of physical education at Brooklyn College and an expert on Title IX, says the reason is "unconscious discrimination." After the NCAA took control of women's sports in 1982, the coaching jobs became somewhat more lucrative (although they still pay barely half, on average, what coaching positions for men's teams pay) and men began to pursue them. At the same time, most colleges merged their men's and women's programs under male athletic directors. When an AD needed a new coach for one of his women's teams, says Carpenter, "Instead of calling Josephine, he called Joe—because he'd rather hang out with a male after work. Before Title IX, Joe would have said, 'You're crazy, there's not enough money in coaching women.' "

Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, claims there is conscious discrimination as well. "If you are a woman looking for a coaching job, your chances are best if you are divorced with no children," she says. "That proves you are not homosexual and have no child to support."

Sadly, legal action, or the threat thereof, may be the only way to rectify the situation. But the courts have not been flooded with antidiscrimination suits from aggrieved female coaches and administrators because until recently a female coach or administrator filing a lawsuit had little to gain besides a reputation as a troublemaker. "A lot of women have felt that if they proceeded with litigation, their careers would be over," says Vargyas. "The old-boy network is very powerful, and the fear and intimidation women feel is extraordinary."

But the situation may finally be changing. Last February the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools gave antibias complaints teeth, ruling that monetary damages could be awarded to victims of discrimination in violation of Title IX. As a result, Vargyas expects more legal action. "Once there are a few lawsuits with big money awards, it will no longer be economic for schools to discriminate," she says. "Then maybe we'll see some badly needed soul-searching on why the old-boy network has been allowed to control athletics for so long."



Since Cathy Rush (at board) led Immaculata to its first college basketball title in the early '70s, men have taken over coaching of most women's teams.