Magazine article Newsweek

You've Got Male: For the First Time, Only Men Are Coaching the Women's Final Four Teams; for the First Time since Women's Basketball Began Staging National Championships, All Four Coaches in the Semifinals Will Be Men

Magazine article Newsweek

You've Got Male: For the First Time, Only Men Are Coaching the Women's Final Four Teams; for the First Time since Women's Basketball Began Staging National Championships, All Four Coaches in the Semifinals Will Be Men

Article excerpt

Byline: John Walters

Regardless of whether or not Geno Auriemma and his University of Connecticut Huskies win an 11th national championship next Tuesday night in Indianapolis, history has already staked its claim at this year's women's Final Four. This weekend, for the first time since women's basketball began staging national championships 44 years ago, all four coaches in the semifinals will be men. As 1995 Final Four most outstanding player and current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo hashtagged in a tweet late Monday evening, #YouveGotMale.

Auriemma, 62, now in his 30th season at UConn, will be joined in Indy by Scott Rueck of Oregon State, Mike Neighbors of Washington and Quentin Hillsman of Syracuse. Whether or not the college athletic sisterhood yearned for an exclusive fraternity, it has one now. "It doesn't bother me that four men are bringing their teams to the Final Four," says former Tennessee guard and ESPN analyst Kara Lawson. "It bothers me that nobody wonders why there aren't any women coaching men's college basketball teams. Or why there are so few women in jobs such as strength coach for a men's team or even athletic director."

As landmark moments in women's athletics go, #YouveGotMale is the antipode of Billie Jean King shaming Bobby Riggs in 1973. It's a clash between Title IX, the federal gender-equity statute that was enacted the same year as the first women's national championship (1972), and the Entitled XY chromosomal group. There have been plenty of women's Final Fours without the Tar Heels of North Carolina, but there has never been one without a pair of heels pacing the sidelines. "It's a disturbing trend," says Lawson, who played for the most towering female figure in the history of women's basketball, Pat Summitt, at Tennessee. "Why is it so easy to hand over a woman's program to a male?"

And why is women's basketball the only popular Division I sport in which the majority of head coaches are female? According to the website fivethirtyeight.com, 58.6 percent of the head coaches in Division I women's basketball last year were female (as opposed to women's soccer, for example, where the figure was 26.5 percent). Five years ago, that number was 66 percent. Of course, 0.0 percent of the head coaches in Division I men's basketball last year, or in any year, were female.

"There is a slow and steady decline in the number of female coaches across not just basketball but all sports," says Danielle Donehew, the executive director of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). "That data is evident. It's important to acknowledge our concern for that. We're committed to working to reverse the trend."

The irony is that Title IX was installed to provide women more opportunities in intercollegiate athletics, and it has--as participants. In the four-plus decades since the passing of Title IX, the growth in female participation in both youth and intercollegiate sports has grown exponentially. In 1971, i.e., one year before the passage of Title IX, just one in 27 girls participated in high school sports, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. By 2008, that number was one in two.

Forty-four years of steadily increasing participation in women's sports should have yielded a dramatically expanded pool of female head coaching candidates to fill the concomitantly growing number of jobs in women's collegiate sports. So how come males are encroaching on women's head coaching jobs at the Division I level like never before?

"I don't like to deal in generalizations," says Lawson, who has played for both men and women during her 13-year WNBA career. "Every individual school makes its own decision, and every athletic director will give you a different answer. I do like facts, though, and the facts are that an overwhelming majority of Division I athletic directors are male."

Lawson is correct. According to NCAA statistics released last September, only 37 of 313 Division I athletic directors, or 11. …

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