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Women Losing Ground To Men In NCAA Coaching Positions (USA)

Patty Gasso has spent her last 24 years in the dugout, coaching Oklahoma?s softball team to 12 Women?s College World Series appearances.

But she?s an anomaly in the Big 12 Conference: one of only two women heading a softball team. The other five teams are coached by men. And among the Power 5 conferences (Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12), the Big 12 is the only one to have more men running softball teams than women.

Despite young women raising the standard of play on the field, fewer are turning to the dugout ? or the court ? to coach, or aren’t being chosen for the positions by the overwhelmingly male athletic directors. And women in athletics say that brings about both a loss of strong female mentors and coaching role models and a loss of opportunity in a field where women once were pervasive.

?I think it?s important that women are role models for these young people coming through the ranks. I think it?s important,? said Gasso, who even groomed another top NCAA softball coach, Florida?s Tim Walton. ?Not that men can?t be great role models because they are, but I just think that women understand young females a little bit different.?

The NCAA first held the Women?s College World Series (which starts next week) in 1982, when about 20 percent of softball coaches were men. All eight coaches in the championship round that year were women.

It hasn?t happened since, despite the fact that the number of Division I softball programs has expanded to 296. As of May 1, men held close to 35 percent of the head coaching positions. (Missouri announced late last week that their new coach is Hofstra’s Larissa Anderson; the interim coach also was a woman, taking over for a man.)

The influx of more men in women?s sports holds true in women?s basketball and volleyball. No woman has ever coached her team to a Division I volleyball title; in the Sweet 16 last December, women were at the head of only four teams.

Those numbers don?t sit well with Florida coach Mary Wise, whose team lost in the national title game to John Cook?s Nebraska squad.

?It is disappointing. It is the trend,? she said.


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