National / Sports / April 17, 2019

Women coaching men virtually nonexistent

Athletic director Daniella Irle speaks at the Women in Sports brunch last year. Irle is one of four women athletic directors in the Midwest Conference after being hired in 2017. To her right, senior women’s administrator Lexie Vernon sits and listens to Irle’s speech. Both women are avid advocates for women in sports and vocalize their beliefs frequently. (TKS Archives)

Notre Dame’s head women’s basketball coach Muffett McGraw declared that she will never hire another male as an assistant coach. McGraw even admitted that she hasn’t hired a male since 2012 and, apparently, the team isn’t suffering. It’s McGraw’s 32nd season at Notre Dame, and she has an overall record of 905-272, has led her team to nine Final Fours and has had seven championship game appearances, winning in 2001 and 2018.

In a press conference during this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa, McGraw expressed her views further. In the conference, McGraw stated, “Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender roles are already set. Men run the world. Men have the power, men make the decisions. It’s always the men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than in sports.”

Although McGraw has caught some heat for her comments, she brushed it off in an interview on CBS on April 17. Many people argue that the person who is best qualified should get the job, that it shouldn’t have anything to do with gender. So, is McGraw’s idea of “inclusion” actually inherently discriminatory? To this, McGraw had her own rebuttal.

“Women are the best qualified. And I think that’s the thing. There’s a perception because the athletic director is usually a white man, he’s going to hire a white man,” McGraw said. “And he thinks that men just know more, because that’s the way society looks at it sometimes. I think, for us, we need to keep fighting because we’ve earned that right.”

McGraw’s comments are mostly along the lines of men getting more of an opportunity to coach women in NCAA basketball. McGraw believes women are the most qualified to coach other women. Men get the most jobs as head coaches in men’s basketball, so why shouldn’t women get the same treatment in hiring women to lead women’s basketball teams?

“When you look at men’s basketball and 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 99 or 100 percent of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women? Maybe it’s because we only have 10 percent women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people that look like them, that’s the problem,” McGraw said.

Here in the Midwest Conference, we have three men heading the women’s basketball teams in the conference and six women. Out of our nine teams, the amount of men coaching women is 49 while the number of women coaching women is 35. Also, we have four women athletic directors and five men. That’s a pretty average ratio; however, why is there such a large difference in men coaching women versus women coaching women?

This proves McGraw’s point perfectly. Simply put, men have greater opportunities. According to a study done by Brooklyn College professors, before Title IX was passed in 1972, more than 90 percent of women’s teams were coached by women. Now, that number is just above 40 percent as of 2016, according to the NCAA.

There is also an extreme gap in how many women coach men in the NCAA. In 2003, Teresa Phillips, the Tennessee State athletic director, filled in for then-suspended coach Hosea Lewis. This was the first time that a woman had coached a Division I men’s basketball team. Why are people so defensive regarding how many men coach women, but there’s not a conversation for the other way around?

If coaching is all about whose qualifications meet the duties of the job, why isn’t the percentage of men coaching men and women coaching men divided equally?

What if I asked you how many women are coaching men’s teams in the Midwest Conference, since that’s the conference most athletes at Knox will be familiar with. Four. That’s how many women coach men. All of which are co-ed programs, being tennis at Knox College, tennis at Illinois College and Lake Forest College and golf at Illinois College. There isn’t a single men’s team with a woman coach in the Midwest Conference unless we’re discussing programs with both women’s and men’s teams.

Becky Hammon, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, has just become the first woman to interview for a head coaching position in the NBA. This was in October 2018. This is a prime example of how this system is broken. Young girls watch sports. No matter how many people want to dispute that, there are girls who watch sports. That being said, they see the people who coach them as well. If my daughter wants to grow up and become the head coach for the LA Lakers, who will stop her? Well, perhaps lack of role models and those who paved the way before her.

There needs to be a discussion. Maybe McGraw started a national debate that needed to be started. When will things change? When will it be the norm for a woman to go for a head coaching job in the NBA? NHL? When will it not be so stigmatized? People say that the person who is most qualified should take the job. I find it hard to believe that a woman hasn’t been the most qualified candidate in the history of men’s sports. But maybe someday soon this gender stigma will be looked past and women can start coaching men’s sports in a more active capacity.


Emily Mosher, Sports Editor

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