On Tuesday, the San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, making her the first female full-time member of an NBA coaching staff. But as the professional league makes gender progress, college basketball is slipping. According to a report released last week by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the representation of women working in college athletics is getting worse, not better. As TIDES director Richard Lapchick told me recently: “When I talk to college athletic directors, and ask them if they’d ever hire a female coach for a men’s team, they give me a quizzical look at the fact that I would even ask that question.”
Today, a team of CBS Sports college sports reporters posed a similar question to a group of anonymous NCAA coaches: Do they think a woman will head up a men’s Division I basketball team within the next 25 years? (Though a handful of women have served as assistants on men’s Division I teams, no woman has led one.) Forty-two percent of coaches said that they don’t see it happening. As one anonymous coach put it: “A big part of being a college coach is molding boys into successful men. Obviously a woman can’t do that. I just don’t see a place for it.”
Let’s reverse that excuse, apply it to women’s athletics, and see how it holds up: Part of being a college coach is molding girls into successful women. Obviously a man can’t do that! And yet, as TIDES reports, more than 60 percent of women’s Division I sports teams at colleges across the country are coached by men. In fact, since the 1972 implementation of Title IX, men have been steadily replacing women as coaches of women’s and girl’s teams. That’s not because men are naturally better at molding girls into women (gross). It’s because once women’s sports gained legitimacy (and coaches of women’s teams started earning higher salaries), men wanted a cut all of a sudden. Now, male coaches want to keep women from coming over to their side by leaning on a gender essentialist excuse. You can’t have it both ways, coach!
If we don’t see a woman heading up a men’s Division I team in the next quarter-century, it won’t be because she doesn’t know how to handle the boys. It will be because the boys won’t know how to handle her.