Why you should care
Because the next Becky Hammon might be stuck behind a dude.
The year is 2013. The UConn women’s basketball team has just stomped all over Louisville to win its eighth national championship by an obscene 33 points — and tied for the all-time record for titles. Streamers fall on all-world baller Breanna Stewart, who led all scorers, and the marching band takes the court. High-fiving and hollering, the Lady Huskies celebrate their breakthrough in women’s sports by heading to the sideline … and hoisting up a man?
No offense, Geno Auriemma, but we smell something patriarchal in Connecticut. In 1972, before Title IX banned gender discrimination in college classrooms and playing fields, 90 percent of women’s sports were coached by, well, women. Today? A paltry 40 percent, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. In other words, that landmark legislation hasn’t helped women patrolling the sidelines, which is why we have a humble suggestion to restore the spirit of the law: Ban men from coaching women’s sports.
Women’s college rosters include not just the next Diana Taurasi and Jenny Finch, but also the next Pat Summitt and Becky Hammon.
Kavitha A. Davidson, Bloomberg sports columnist
Sure, workplace ultimatums aren’t exactly popular, but recognize the double standard. Women are already “effectively banned from coaching men’s sports,” Southern Utah sports economist David Berri told OZY, because colleges “just don’t hire them.” Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips became the first woman to coach a men’s Division I basketball squad — and that was for a single game in 2003. No women lead men’s teams currently, and the NCAA didn’t respond to interview requests from OZY.
Women are often told they can’t coach men’s sports because “they’ve never played them,” according to Berri and others in the industry, but that truism seems conveniently applied only against women. Men who’ve never played the women’s sport they coach include UConn’s Auriemma, who wrapped up his record-setting 10th championship this year, and Georgia’s Jeff Wallace, the active-career-wins leader in women’s tennis. Softball and soccer are littered with machismo too, even as more college women are playing sports than ever before. It’s a catch-22, according to Marlene Bjornsrud, executive director of the Alliance of Women Coaches: Women need experience in men’s sports to get hired, but they need to get hired to get experience. Many women don’t even bother applying, she says. Bjornsrud suggests requiring gender-blind interviews for assistant coaching positions.
But … “that’ll never happen in my lifetime,” she says. What is happening: some minor improvements. During the 2007-08 season, the majority of women’s coaches said they felt satisfaction with their roles, according to NCAA research on the subject, a far cry from a previous survey in 1989 where women said they felt like “second-class citizens.” And women are increasingly represented in athletics, period — small steps, eh?
What could change the game isn’t, however, finger-pointing about patriarchy. It’s a clean argument for success. We’ve got one for you: As any recruiter knows, it’s never a good idea to automatically rule out half your talent pool. A wider pool equals more potential talent. As Bloomberg’s Kavitha A. Davidson put it in a sports column: “Women’s college rosters include not just the next Diana Taurasi and Jenny Finch, but also the next Pat Summitt and Becky Hammon,” the first female NBA coach in summer-league history who, by the way, actually won the whole thing in 2015. So here we go: We await the fourth wave of feminism’s touchdown on the football field.