Report details decline in women coaching in athletics last 50 years

When Title IX assured women equal access to high school and college athletics 50 years ago, a funny thing happened - the unintended consequence is that suddenly there were far fewer women coaching women’s sports.

"Before Title IX, women were coaching women’s teams about 90% of the time," Hannah Silva-Breen, a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research of Girls and Women in Sport, told FOX 9. "And once Title IX was enacted, and there were more lucrative opportunities for coaches, the number dropped to below 40 percent."

In other words, 50 years ago, once women’s athletics became required, therefore more financially supported, the men took over.

Silva-Breen is co-author of this year’s Women in College Coaching Report Card, which has been produced by the Tucker Center each year since 2012. Focused on women coaching in the NCAA, It shows progress, but at a glacial pace.

"Slowly, very slowly on the incline," Silva-Breen said. "We’re at about 43% right now of women coaching women’s teams at the NCAA level."

In the 10 years of the report card, it’s risen only a couple percentage points.

"At this rate, averaging about .4% increase per year, to get to pre-Title IX levels, it would take 117 years," she said.

The mission of the Tucker Center’s report card, highlight the stagnation of women’s coaches of women’s teams, is not to shame schools, but motivate them as schools are given grades from A to F.

"But it’s more to highlight and lift up those ‘A schools’ and use them as examples of how other institutions can do better and hire and retain women coaches," Silva-Breen said.

The University of Minnesota, with eight women head coaches, rates a "B" grade, as does the Big Ten as a whole. Top of the list with an "A" is the Ivy League.

The Tucker Center’s purpose isn’t just to push more opportunities for women to coach at a collegiate level, but to help the female student-athletes, as well.  

"We know that same-sex, same-identity role models matter and so we really want to highlight that and applaud schools and institutions that are doing well and making that a priority," said Silva-Breen.

The report card also notes the lack of women coaches of color, at about seven percent, despite the fact there are a large number of student-athletes of color.

Silva-Breen says schools need to examine their own coach recruiting methods, often stuck in the old-school methods of finding candidates within their own network, rather than casting wider nets.  

If they don’t, the numbers of women coaches for women’s teams at collegiate levels will continue its slow rise.

"Title IX was amazing and a huge stepping stone for women’s sports along with gender equity in general, so it’s not Title IX’s fault. But we do hope to get back up to that 90 percent level someday, hopefully a lot sooner than 117 years," she said.