Should men or women coach women's teams? Gender issue is big topic in Atlanta 1993 NCAA FINAL FOUR--NEW ORLEANS

April 02, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Clemson women's coach Jim Davis may not remember all the specifics of Texas Gov. Ann Richards' keynote speech to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association six years ago, but there's one detail he won't forget.

"She gets up there and she starts talking about, 'You don't know how glad I am that my granddaughter will have a chance to play for a woman.' Well, what's that saying? That's saying that 'I'm glad she doesn't have to play for a man,' " said Davis.

Now that providing equity to women in athletics has become a hot topic at colleges, it is interesting that one of the hottest debates at this year's women's Final Four is about men coaching women's sports.

"There's definitely some tension related to the fact that there are a lot of men coaching women's basketball," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "As more jobs become better jobs and there's more money put into it [women's programs], there's just going to be more competition put into these jobs."

According to the NCAA, four of 21 women's basketball head coaches hired last year in Division I were male. Overall, only 36.5 percent of Division I women's basketball coaches are men.

The WBCA voted earlier this week to form a committee to address the concerns of male coaches, some of whom feel the organization, whose membership is overwhelmingly female, has done little to help them.

Maryland coach Chris Weller downplayed the importance of the committee, categorizing the male coaches as just another group under the WBCA's umbrella.

"It's like any organization that is a service organization," Weller said. "You want to service all of your members and if any of the members have a uniqueness about them, you want to help them if that uniqueness presents certain challenges."

But clearly, the issue is a troubling one to many and it is being raised at a time when many in the sport are attempting to focus their efforts on making women's basketball more popular.

"I think it's been blown out of proportion," Weller said.

In an odd twist, male coaches' concerns are being addressed at a time when the overall numbers of females who coach women's basketball has declined, from 79 percent in 1977-78 to 63.5 percent now.

Particularly galling to female coaches is their absence from equivalent positions coaching men. No woman is a head coach of any Division I men's basketball program and only one woman, Bernadette Locke, an assistant at Kentucky, is on a Division I men's coaching staff.

Jim Foster, coach of top-ranked Vanderbilt, is the first male president of the WBCA.

"I always turn it around and ask, 'Why aren't women coaching men?' " he said. "There are many, many capable women who could run a big-time men's program."

VanDerveer, who has won two national titles at Stanford, said: "If there was a kind of ebb and flow between men's programs and women's programs, it wouldn't be an issue. Until things change on the men's side, I only have a chance to get half the jobs. `` That's unfair."

Clemson's Davis agrees, but contends that women haven't stepped forward to apply for men's openings.

"That's apples and oranges," said Davis. "Coaches are teachers. Our subject matter is different than what they have on the other side of campus. . . . but, on the other side of campus, the dean of the social studies department doesn't bring in a female history teacher to teach the female history students and a male history teacher to teach the male history students."

And Davis said he doesn't understand why qualified men aren't getting their chances.

"It's an abomination," he said. "It's reverse discrimination when we have [Virginia assistant] Frank DiLeo, with what he has helped the University of Virginia achieve, when we have job openings in our conference and he can't get an interview."

Coppin State coach Tori Harrison, who played for male coaches in high school and college and was an assistant with Davis last season, has mixed feelings. This year, her first as a head caoch, she guided the Eagles to a tie for first in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

"I see this both ways, since I played for men and coached with men," Harrison said. "I'm not very intimidated by men that coach because if you know what you're talking about, you'll be able to hold your own and do whatever you can do."

Women's Final Four

&

At The Omni, Atlanta

All games on channels 11, 9

Tomorrow's semifinals

* Vanderbilt (30-2) vs. Texas Tech (29-3), noon

Ohio State (27-3) vs. Iowa (27-3), 3 p.m.

Sunday's championship

* Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.

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