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Female Coaches: The Next Title IX Battleground?

This article is more than 8 years old.

Shannon Miller, head coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth's women's hockey team, is being dismissed following this season. Miller has an excellent record at UMD, having led the Bulldogs to five national champions, the most of any Div. I women's hockey coach. Kristine Newhall is a lecturer in Sports Management at the University of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management. She spoke with Karen Given about why opportunities for female coaches have actually gone down over the past 40 years.

KG: So why was Shannon Miller fired?

[sidebar title="Dismissal Raises Questions" width="630" align="right"] Reporter Dan Kraker has more on the firing of Shannon Miller, who has led Minnesota Duluth to five NCAA championships.[/sidebar]KN: We don't know all the information. I think that that's part of the problem, but I think it's an intersection of factors. I'm sure that budget concerns are an issue, but I think it's also a matter of budget priorities, so where Minnesota Duluth is going to put their money. They have chosen not to put it into their National Championship women's hockey program.

KG: I want to look at the bigger picture a little bit. Before Title IX passed, 90 percent of women’s college teams were coached by women. Now, it’s only 40 percent. What’s going on?

KN: Again, I think it's a combination of so many factors. And it's very difficult, and probably not even valuable, to try to disaggregate them from one another. You know, what I find interesting is the statistic that in the first three-plus years after Title IX was passed, we doubled our women's athletic teams in intercollegiate sports and the number of women coaching women's team dropped almost 60 percent.

So that's just in the first three years. Part of the issue is about power. This was about men taking over the governance of women's sports. It's also indicated in the statistics about who our athletic directors are. Women running athletic departments are at around 20 percent.

KG: Maybe this is me looking at the positive side of things, but I think universities have gotten better at providing opportunities for female athletes. Is the next fight providing opportunities for female coaches?

[sidebar title="Brown University: Revisiting The Case For Title IX" width="630" align="right"]In 1992, female athletes at Brown University sued the school for a failure to comply with Title IX.[/sidebar]KN: Perhaps. I think there's a lot of fights to still be fought, actually. We focus a lot on the growth of opportunities for female athletes and that's great. What we have somewhat pushed to the sides, perhaps, are how they're treated. You know, are they getting things like equal time and facilities? Are they getting the best facilities?

And also included in that list is, are they getting the best coaching? I think that one of the arguments that can be made in Shannon Miller's case is that by firing her, they're denying those student-athletes a very high quality coach. I do hope that there will be more female coaches that are going to step up and talk about the discrimination that they've faced within departments, and that will hopefully open up some of this discussion about what equality looks like at a coaching level.

This segment aired on February 21, 2015.



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