The 50th anniversary of Title IX has ushered in celebration and reflection throughout college sports. For hotlines, the moment of time also provides an opportunity for forecasting.
For all the benefits created by the coercive Civil Rights Act, which became the law of the land on June 23, 1972, the next chapter in the evolution of equity is also important.
And it comes in the form of a significant change in college sports:
Name, image and likeness have changed recruitment and allocation of resources.
Athletes can be declared employees by the Supreme Court’s decision on educational benefits.
The NCAA is rewriting its constitution to give the Power Five more autonomy.
More men are coaching women’s sports, yet Division I has an embarrassingly low number of female athletic directors.
To address the current status and future direction of Title IX, the hotline reached out to four leaders in college sports:
— Washington Athletic Director Jane Cohen
– Teresa Goldie, deputy commissioner of Pac-12
— West Coast Convention Commissioner Gloria Newarez
— Women’s Leader in College Sports Chief Executive Patti Phillips
The interviews were conducted separately and have been modified for clarity.
– Title IX has recently gained significant attention due to its 50th anniversary. Where does the law apply at the present time?
Sleep: I’m excited that so much conversation is happening around the industry. In my lifetime, Title IX has been the biggest game-changer in intercollegiate athletics and beyond. It has been transformative. The experience I had in the 1970s and ’80s is very different from what girls are now.
Newarez: I’m on the NCAA change committee, and I keep thinking, ‘Thank God for Title IX, but we still have a lot of work to do.’ Gender equality is enshrined in the NCAA constitution, and without Title IX, people wouldn’t be asking about equity. What happened in the 2021 Women’s Final Four sheds light on the situation. Just because the NCAA does not receive federal funding, it represents the ecosystem and must be followed.
Philips: Progress has been made, and it’s important to remember. Without Title IX, we would not be where we are. I won’t have my job. I would not have had a career in coaching. I don’t go to college on a (basketball) scholarship. There are thousands of such stories, and the opportunities Title IX has opened to them are priceless. I am grateful for this and we should celebrate it. But we are not done yet.
– What areas of college sports are ripe for additional progress?
Sleep: The mindset about opportunity and investment still needs to change. Do we want leaders to follow Title IX because they are legally required, or do we want them to invest in Title IX because it is the right thing to do? There is a lack of view of women’s sport as a product, Whether it’s female student-athletes or the WNBA, we don’t want them to be viewed as a charity, but as a viable product that – if you build a strategy and invest – can become a successful business. Efficiency is difficult to measure because investment has not been happening for a very long time. We haven’t made the same investment as in the men’s game. Think of the Women’s College World Series. If we had invested 30 or 40 years ago, what would it look like now?
Cohen: Interestingly, women’s sports are more valuable to consumers due to their increasing popularity. If we keep providing more opportunities, they will develop more value and provide more revenue so we can reinvest. It’s so reverse. I look up to my sons, who are 17 and 19, and they only know of the amazing female athletes that Washington has been through. And my boys, because they grew up in that environment and because they’ve participated in or watched sports, they value female athletes and women’s sports. It’s exciting. It is something to be thankful for. And this is something that should continue everywhere. Title IX is not a destination. This is a work in progress.
Philips: There is hope from women’s organizations that we can continue to expand and grow. There’s a lot of opportunity for equity, and we’re not there. Only 23 percent of college athletic directors in all NCAA divisions are women. In Division I, it is just 14 per cent. And in the Power Five, only six of the 65 athletic directors are women. If leadership is going to reflect the population it serves, that number should be 50 percent.
– On that issue specifically, why aren’t more women leading major college athletic departments?
Cohen: I hope that if we give women and girls the opportunity to compete and work in sports, we will develop a bigger pipeline. And if there’s a bigger pipeline, we’re more likely to see lead numbers grow.
Sleep: I get more calls for AD jobs than I did 20 years ago, but the numbers are still not great and the mindset still exists, ‘How can she lead a football program when she’s never played football?’ It is getting better, but there is still a lot to be done in that area.
Newarez; You hear all the time that you have to know football. This is an unconscious bias, as many male athletic directors have never played football. I know female AD candidates who have been asked what is the spread offense during their interviews. But are they asking the same thing to male candidates?
Philips: We have to keep exposing people about the benefits of women in leadership. We have to show the boards and chairs of trustees and the people who are influencing decisions behind the scenes. When it’s time for a big change, two things happen: people fall into old habits, and people risk averse. NIL, Alston, NCAA changes – all these things create unrest and disturb. People turn to something that sounds like a certain thing, and in some cases, it is those people who determine the experience and background of a traditional athletic director. But this is a false idea. We are here today because that is how it has been done in the past. It’s time to think differently, hire different leaders, and find a new way to make college sports work.
Are there other areas to raise equity?
Newarez: Much more needs to be done with leadership on campus and at the Power Five commissioner level. And also with the caretaker. College sports lag behind in this regard. Men and women participate in women’s sports, but only men participate in men’s sports. The NFL and the NBA have already integrated women into their caretaker teams.
Sleep: The number of women in coaching is moving in the wrong direction. Why? I think it’s lifestyle, and depending on the situation in your home, it’s not the easiest thing to juggle. For example, not every athletic department is well equipped to know how to support women’s basketball coaches. Not every school program is chartering. Or bringing a nanny. Secondly, more men are migrating to women’s sports because they are seeing bigger contracts for coaching jobs with women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball. A large percentage of the coaches in those high-profile sports are men. You look at the demographics of athletic directors who hire coaching, and you see that there are more qualified men available, and I think that’s part of why we are where we are.
— What is the biggest obstacle for Title IX in the future?
Philips: Systemic and longstanding prejudice against women in our society. We have to overcome our prejudices, especially about playing and leading women in sports. These biases affect the enforcement and overall effectiveness of Title IX on multiple levels – from revenue models to media rights, and access to opportunities for girls and women to play sports.
Newarez: The biggest challenge is the political climate. Title IX has withstood the test of time, but everything is over-politicised. What will the NCAA look like going forward? We need it – the NCAA – to understand the value of all sports.
Cohen: I started working in college athletics in Division III, and I couldn’t find anyone in Division I to back my calls. I was 27 and saw an ad in NCAA News for a thriving internship at Texas Tech. I quit my job in Puget Sound and went to Lubbock for an internship. I was the first recipient. It was one of the best years of my life. I met many people, had many meaningful experiences, and that access changed my life. I was hired by Washington the next year to work in development. And that’s Title IX at its best – my internship would never have been without Title IX. The good news is that people are more committed than ever to giving opportunities to all. The question for all college sports is how do we generate revenue to fund opportunities? What is the future structure of intercollegiate athletics that will provide investment and opportunity for all? There the commitment should remain true.
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