Tyler takes administrative route to influence Maryland post puts her among decision-makers

December 23, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Call Sue Tyler the practical warrior.

In 1976, when the first wave of money began to flow into the women's athletic program at the University of Maryland because of the implementation of Title IX, a number of female coaches marched and protested in front of Cole Field House, decrying the school's decision to pump those funds into scholarships, rather than uniforms and equipment and coaches' salaries.

But not Tyler, who was coaching the school's women's lacrosse and field hockey teams. She thought the best way to influence the system was to be a part of it.

"My philosophic belief was as long as men got it, women should as well," said Tyler, 44, who is now the No. 2 official in the athletic department. "I wanted to stay and try to help the administration run women's sports the way it should be.

"I'm not a rabble-rouser or a bra-burner. I want what's equitable and fair. But I don't want it at someone's expense. I don't want to say, 'Get rid of all men's sports and only do women's.' I think it's only right that women have whatever men have."

That's not to say that Tyler, Maryland's senior associate athletic director, thinks that all is well for women in athletics.

Tyler -- who coached the women's lacrosse and field hockey teams to national championships in 1986 and 1987, as well as a 1981 lacrosse championship -- says women make many more sacrifices than men to take part in athletics.

The cost can be particularly high in administration and coaching, where Tyler has spent most of her working life.

"Some are willing to do it and some are not," said Tyler, who said she worked 10 to 12 hours a day nearly year-round when she coached. "I was willing to give up an awful lot for a long time to work in coaching.

"By the time you get home and fix dinner and make recruiting calls and do paperwork and reading, you don't have a life of your own."

Tyler says that if it weren't for the patience and understanding of her husband, Dennis Casey, an administrator at Montgomery College in Rockville, her struggle to balance her home and work schedules would be nearly impossible.

"I'm fortunate in that Dennis meets me more than halfway," said Tyler, whose son, Andrew, is 2. "There are not a lot of men like him and it took me a long time to find him. There are not a lot of people who are willing to make sacrifices or do laundry all the time."

In 1990, when former athletic director Lew Perkins left College Park for the University of Connecticut, Tyler was appointed interim athletic director.

Had she been hired to the permanent position, Tyler would have been the first woman to head a Division I-A athletic department with big-time football and basketball programs. Since then, Barbara Hedges at Washington and Merrily Dean Baker at Michigan State have become athletic directors.

But Tyler took herself out of the running, citing her own relative inexperience at running an athletic department as well as her sense that neither Maryland and its alumni nor the field of athletics was ready for such a big step.

"Maybe I was wrong, but those women [Hedges and Baker] are stronger than I am," Tyler said. "Both of those women have had a lot more administrative experience and a lot more experience handling money. I took myself out through my own knowledge of myself and what I thought the university should have. And Barbara or Merrily would have been fine here."

Tyler, who coordinates Maryland's compliance with NCAA rules, doesn't rule out the possibility that someday she'll run an athletic department, but she says it would probably be on either the Division I-AA, II or III level, where the scope of the program and the pressures would be smaller.

Tyler said she received some pleasant surprises during the three months she held the interim post, before Andy Geiger took over in October 1990.

Among them were that the two coaches she had expected to give a female athletic director the most difficult time -- Gary Williams, the men's basketball coach, and former football coach Joe Krivak -- were the easiest coaches to deal with.

"We argued. But it was professional," Tyler said. "I expected that they were going to get outraged if I said no. But they were terrific."

Still, Tyler recognizes that the pressures of managing big-time football and men's basketball may be used as barriers to keep women from power positions in athletic management.

"Does a male coach want to listen to a female tell them how to run their sport? They can listen to me, because I've earned the respect as a coach as somebody who's been standing right beside them working through things," said Tyler.

"But if I'd come in from the cold or if I'd come in 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, it would have been different. It's just now that some coaches are able to accept the opinions of a woman and look at things a little differently."

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