Seeking Better Representation on the Sidelines
Better Representing the Sidelines
Syracuse hired female coaches for women's basketball and lacrosse in the last year. But data shows many men still coach women's teams, while the opposite remains extremely rare.
For about an hour on March 28, the gap between men’s and women’s college coaches didn’t seem to exist when Syracuse University introduced Felisha Legette-Jack as the school’s new women’s basketball coach.
In the Melo Center gym, decorated with orange and blue balloons, the former SU player and Buffalo head coach took the podium as the school’s first female women’s basketball coach in two decades.
In the back of the gym, away from the staff and reporters gathered for the festive introduction, sat longtime SU men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim, affording his new counterpart the spotlight she deserved.
But the gap between Legette-Jack and Boeheim goes well beyond the 50 feet of basketball hardwood between them that day.
A half-century since Title IX went into effect mandating equity in sports, the representation of women in coaching and pay differences between female and male coaches remain unbalanced. According to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, women held 67% of Power 5 women’s basketball head coaching jobs in 2020-21. You don’t have to look at data to know every Power 5 men’s basketball head coaching job is filled by a man.
“I think it’s imperative that we are if not getting the job we should be at least interviewed for the opportunity when it comes to women coaching women,” Legette-Jack said. “It’s going to take some more time, but I think that the curve is trending upward.”
The EADA’s data supports Legette-Jack’s instincts. Of Syracuse’s 11 women’s sports programs, six teams – basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer and softball – are now coached by women. This compares to two female coaches when the Orange joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.
That rate at Syracuse can improve, too. As of June 2022, SU’s volleyball team does not have a head coach after Leonid Yelin retired at the end of last season.
SU Athletics Director John Wildhack, who hired Legette-Jack, Kayla Treanor as the school’s women’s lacrosse coach and Britni Smith as Syracuse’s ice hockey coach this past year, said he’s always pursuing the right person for the job.
“But I do think it’s important when you identify quality women head coach candidates, they need that opportunity, and they deserve that opportunity,” Wildhack said.
The coaching hires at SU account for half of the additions since 2013 in ACC women’s sports, where male coaches still outnumbered female coaches 78 to 69 in the 2020-21 school year.
Of the 15 Atlantic Coast Conference schools, including Notre Dame, men coached 53% of all women’s teams in the 2020-21 season. And while providing opportunities for women to lead has improved, the resources they’re given to work with have not.