Women hold 10 of 42 head coach or assistant coach positions at the U, placing the university below the national average.
The NCAA and related institutions have generally worsened for gender and racial hiring practices, according to 2014 data from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which analyzes both colleges and professional athletics. The U received a “C” grade, one of the lowest among all the organizations, including the NFL.
Chris Hill, the U’s athletic director, said it’s often a difficult task to balance diversity requirements.
“We want the best coach,” he said. “But we also want a good amount in the pool that are females.”
Hill said it is getting harder to recruit women to fill head positions, and he has a few theories.
“There is a stereotype that a younger woman who has children might not want the traveling lifestyle that coaches have,” he said.
Hill also noted that there are more opportunities for women in other fields than there once were, leading to fewer women applying. There are also more men interested in coaching female sports because the positions are becoming better paid. This, he said, also has to do with an increase in fathers coaching their daughters early on, which carries through the educational system.
Since becoming part of the Pac-12, Hill is hopeful for change but thinks it will still take time for women to be more involved.
“We have a better pool [of candidates] since moving to the Pac-12 for every pool, and so I’m more optimistic that things can grow in this area,” he said.
Women comprise 38.2 percent of head coaching positions and 76.1 percent of assistant coaching positions in Division I schools (the highest level of intercollegiate athletics). The U, which belongs to this group, has women in 22 percent of head coach positions and 21 percent of assistant coaches. And no person of color holds any head coaching position at the U.
One of the four female head coaches is Megan Marsden, co-head of the U’s gymnastics team.
“I hadn’t aspired to be a coach,” she said. “I wanted to help other young women experience what I did.”
Marsden said she’s a “natural fit” for the program because she competed in gymnastics as a student at the U from 1981 to 1984. She became the assistant coach for the team in 1985, associate head coach in 1997 and co-head coach in 2010.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity open up as soon as I finished my academic career and was able to just stay on,” she said.
She said there’s been “steady progress” regarding female coaches recently, though there is still room to improve.
Marsden said men tend to be better spotters — those who make sure gymnasts are safe during practice and competitions — for her athletes than women, so it’s necessary to have them on staff. In other sports, such as women’s basketball, she said it’s not as much of a requirement. For her, the ideal sports staff has people of different genders as it allows students to get new perspectives.
“When mentoring young people, coaches have such an influence — it doesn’t hurt to have both genders involved as you’re guiding them along,” Marsden said. “It would not hurt for male athletes to learn respect for women. I think having a female or two on the football staff would be important.”
Hill advises women to get involved in any kind of coaching as soon as they finish school, if they’re interested in going into this field. He said there is the possibility for another female coach on the U’s women’s basketball team, but it’s too soon to confirm. There are currently some women up for the position, and they expect to announce the new coach by May.