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Jewish World Review March 22, 2002/ 9 Nisan, 5762

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

'Foul'? Or, Just 'Good Coaching'? | "There's a lot of outcry now over the serious lack of female coaches, but not enough being done to solve the problem," said a former physical-education professor.

According to Linda Carpenter, the co-author of the Women in Intercollegiate Sport study, 30 years ago, women coached more than 90 percent of female teams. Currently, women coach 44 percent of female teams. Since 1990, athletics directors hired men for 90 percent of the vacancies for female sports.

Foul, cries Linda Carpenter, "When a male athletics director wants to find a new coach, he will hire away a male coach from other schools, but he won't do the same for women. The result is that men get paid top marketplace salaries ... while women's salaries continue to be depressed."

Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, says, "We need to break open the closed positions in men's sports, jobs that are higher in status and in salary." Sarah Feyerherm, assistant athletics director at Washington College in Maryland, says, "we need to think outside the box and encourage our young female coaches to go into men's teams."

Isn't the male interest in coaching female teams somewhat flattering? After all, the growing field competence and athleticism make coaching females a more interesting proposition than years ago. Perhaps the reduction in the percentage of female-coached teams actually indicates an increase in their competitiveness, creating a greater pool of both men and women interested in coaching these teams. But this, apparently, now becomes bad news.

Is this a case of sexism? Male athletics directors deny this. A high-stress occupation, coaching often requires a willingness to relocate, work long hours under enormous pressure to win, or get fired. Richard Farnham, the athletics director at the University of Vermont, also says that when it comes to a female coaching a football or a basketball team, "There is also a certain intimacy ... that might be jeopardized with a female coach."

But what happens when male coaches of female teams cry "sexism"?

The NCAA basketball tournament is now underway. For the women's tournament, men coach 22 of the 64 teams. But, according to the male coach of the Connecticut Huskies, Geno Auriemma, the NCAA selection board mysteriously seems to place male-coached teams in the same regional brackets, thus ensuring a greater likelihood of female-coached teams in the Final Four. Auriemma noted that in 1999, men coached the top teams in the Mideast Region, and in 2001, men coached three of the top teams in the East region. Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore said, "It's no accident. I've been around too long, seen too much." Auriemma said, "I think it's there. I don't believe in coincidences."

Is this a case of females discriminating against men? A 10-member women's tournament selection committee decides the bracket pairings. How many men sit on this committee? None. Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster says, "Let's reverse that. What if it were 70 percent male and 30 percent female, and we had 10 men on the committee and no women? What do you think people would be saying then?"

But female coaches sniff at the complaints. "Are they paranoid?" said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. "I can't imagine a selection committee member getting up and putting on the board, 'Tennessee. Summitt. Female.' I think they have been watching too many Oliver Stone movies." Maryalyce Jeremiah, head of women's basketball selection committee, responded even more bluntly, "I think there should be the best people on the committee and I'm just really beyond this gender issue with who should be on, who should not be on. I think it's not an issue about who's on the committee any more than it's an issue about how these teams are seeded. And the gender issue to me with this is a dead horse, and I think we need to get off of that horse."

Certainly merely looking at numbers and asserting - voila, discrimination - often makes little sense. Does the NBA discriminate against white males since 85 percent of the players are black? Is it fair that under the notion of "disparate impact," that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can accuse an employer of discrimination, switching the burden of proving non-discrimination to the employer? Maryalyce Jeremiah suggested awarding committee assignments to "the best people." This is good news. Does this mean the end of "multiculturalism" and "diversity," often used to justify preferential treatment of women and minorities?

So, try this. Someone from the office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs calls you. Based on numbers, he informs you that it appears you discriminate against women by failing to promote them to management. You respond, "Are you paranoid? I think you've been watching too many Oliver Stone movies. You need to get off that horse." And hang up.

Then call Johnnie Cochran - you'll need him.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate