Colleges show slight gain in women head coaches


Tucker Center says its report cards are increasing awareness of issue

AnotherViewsquareThe U of M Tucker Center advocates for women coaches at all levels, especially for women teams. Last week, the Center’s fourth annual “Women in College Coaching Report and Report Card” studied 86 “big-time” athletic programs on the percentage of women head coaches.

A net gain of seven female head coaches occurred in 2015-16, but still males (570) outnumber females (397) in leading women teams. Three sports — field hockey (100 percent), lacrosse (92 percent) and golf (78 percent) — have a large majority of female head coaches, while women’s water polo and alpine skiing for three years running have had all-male head coaches.

Nicole LaVoi
Nicole LaVoi

There were 76 head coaching turnovers, or around eight percent of the 967 total coaching positions in Division I: 52 schools had at least one coaching change, 11 schools had two changes, five had three, and Georgia was the only school with four.

Tennis hired the most coaches (nine), followed by volleyball (eight) and seven each for soccer and softball. But four of the new volleyball hires were male coaches hired to replace female coaches — the most in any sport, followed by tennis with three. “All the schools at least have one female head coach,” noted Tucker Center Co-Director Nicole LaVoi last week during an MSR phone interview.

Cincinnati is the only institution to earn A’s on all four Tucker Center report cards — Cincinnati and Central Florida this year earned top grades. Minnesota is among 13 schools with B’s; 31 schools got C’s, 30 got D’s and 10 got failing grades. Why not more A’s? LaVoi says she hopes to do a “case study analysis with schools that seems to be committed to gender equity in their work force.

“With 40 [combined] D’s and F’s, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” added LaVoi. “I’d love to see those numbers go down.”

Now that the Center has issued four annual report cards, have any of their three main objectives been met? “I have been reflecting a lot on that,” she admitted.

  • Increase the percentage of women coaches: “It has taken us four years to start seeing the impact of the report card,” stated LaVoi.
  • Increase awareness: “We definitely have done that,” she continued. “The number of media outlets has picked up the report card or ran stories. People are definitely aware,” including athletic directors and other school officials.
  • Start a national dialogue: LaVoi reported that “decision makers…are starting to come to us now” seeking the Center’s assistance on this issue.

“We are starting to see the fruits of our labor,” said LaVoi. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask, as we have asked of the three previous Tucker Center report cards, “What about race?”

“I get real uncomfortable in trying to code race using the methodology that we use,” said LaVoi. “When you get the primary data from the coaches themselves and how they identify racially, whether biracial, multiracial or single race, it’s really hard for us to code the racial data by just looking at them. That’s the only reason why we haven’t done it.

“There’s not a real sufficient way to get race data other than calling every coach, which would be about a thousand coaches… It seems like an awkward call to make,” she said.

“I think it’s an exciting time to be in this field, working on this issue,” concluded LaVoi. “Now I think we’ve got people’s attention.”

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