“Over the past four decades, the number of female college athletes has soared, but the percentage of female coaches has plummeted. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, women coached more than 90 percent of women’s teams. By 1978, that number had already dipped to 58.2 percent. This year, it’s down to 42.9 percent, according to the most recent survey by Brooklyn College professors emerita R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter. That figure has hardly budged over the past six years.
But while some experts may consider this holding pattern a victory, the raw numbers say otherwise. Since 2000, NCAA programs have added 1,774 women’s head coaching jobs. Men have filled 1,220 of the openings.
Women have entered the rest of the workforce at all levels and now make up 57 percent of college students. Sports are bigger than ever for them too, with an average of 8.73 women’s teams per school.
And yet female coaches continue to be sidelined. Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer is only half-joking when she says, “We’ll have a female president — and one woman coaching women’s college basketball.”
It’s not as if women are finding new opportunity in the men’s game: Only about 3 percent of men’s teams are coached by women, the same percentage as before Title IX’s passage.”
“Homophobia has haunted women’s sports throughout the Title IX era, forcing coaches to stay closeted for fear of losing their jobs, or at least recruits. In some quarters, coaches have been known to signal quietly to prospects or their parents that a competing program is run by a lesbian, in an effort to turn the recruit away.
To this day, there is only one out lesbian coach in Division I basketball, Portland State’s Sherri Murrell. In a 2009 paper on negative recruiting, Carroll and Pat Griffin, of the Women’s Sports Foundation, wrote, “The psychological toll of silence, denial and secrecy results in a climate of fear and hostility that many lesbian, gay and bisexual coaches endure in order to pursue their profession. Others simply choose to leave the profession.”
It’s not only established coaches who check out. Former players often decide the hassle isn’t worth it. Two former collegiate stars, Sue Wicks of Rutgers and Abby Conklin of Tennessee, told ESPN The Magazine in 2011 that homophobia still casts a wide shadow over the sidelines. In the same story, former WNBA star Kate Starbird stressed that she wouldn’t consider coaching because she refused to be closeted. “I didn’t want to live my life that way,” she said.”