What is happening to female coaches in the U.S Collegiate System?

There seems to be a growing momentum in the ‘trend’ of firing, suspending and mistreating female coaches in the U.S. Collegiate at the moment.  In recent weeks two high profile female coaches have been fired or suspended (Sylvia Hatchell and Machelle Joseph), there’s been a  a public spat between two high profile coaches (male coach Geno Auriemma and female coach Muffet McGraw) and a number of male coaches cleared from abuse, whilst female coaches remained fired.

Below, we try to explain some of the current situations occurring in the US with the help from female coach advocate Becky Carlson who has written a number of articles in recent weeks and had been a loud voice for women coaches in the NCAA for a number of years.

Check out Becky’s Linked-in Page to read more: CLICK HERE 

Background of NCAA and Women Coaches

Over the last 60 years, there has been a continual changing landscape of sports coaching, moving from an almost exclusively voluntary role to becoming, in some sports, one of the highest paid jobs in the World.  This change from ‘amateur’ to ‘professional’ has however, had a negative impact on the gender balance in coaching.

One of the best examples to demonstrate this, is the explanation of the after effects of the 1972 U.S Federal law – Title IX.  Title IX is a civil rights law (still in existence today) which was passed as part of the Education Amendments in 1972.

The purpose of which is: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The positive impact on the number of women and girls taking part in sport was immense with an increase of 1,079% between 1972 and 2010.  The impact on the number of female head coaches however, was not so positive.

The percentage of women coaching women dropped from 90% to below 30%.  Today, only 40% of women’s teams have a female head coach, with only 20% of all head coaches for athletes of both genders.

Table of female head coaches in NCAA Division 1 Sports

SOURCE: Tucker Centre Report 2017-2018

The cause of this; before 1972, women’s sports coaching positions were voluntary, whilst men’s sports coaching positions were paid.  Male coaches tended to stick to the paid roles in men’s sports.  Once women’s sport became equally funded and coaching positions became professional, it was the men who took the new paid coaching positions and ‘pushed out’ the volunteer female coaches.

For more information on Title IX and the impact it has had on women coaches, please visit the following link: https://wecoachsports.org/advocacy-resources/title-ix-advocacy/

One thing the stats and percentages don’t reveal however, is the mistreatment of female coaches who make up that 40%.  Becky Carlson, also known as Fearless Coach, is an NCAA Division 1 Rugby Coach and an advocate for coaching equality.  She never shy’s away from supporting women coaches who are mis-treated and has set up her own support system for these women.

For more information, visit her website: The Fearless Coach

In a recent article written by Becky titled “Female Coaches; Here is How Schools Are Getting Rid of Us” she explains what a lot of female coaches have to put up with at their institution:

“This is precisely why this [referring to the case of MaChelle Joseph] challenge of the system by a female coach feels so much like an anomaly to those in the non-coaching world when these cases surface in the headlines. This is the proven gasoline that inevitably adds fuel to the online fires that relentlessly swirl around women in this position.

Die-hard athletic sycophants will repeatedly predict how a lawsuit will infringe on the resources for the rest of the department. They will call the coach “greedy” and repeatedly ask why she doesn’t just “go away”.

This typically leads to merciless scrutiny of the female coach on everything from her looks, dress code, character and sexual preference. Comments and tweets will litter social media. Keep in mind institutions bank on this to work in their favor in the arena of swaying public and donor opinions.

Universities are well aware that a coach’s reputation in this profession is one of the most precious and delicate commodities that in these cases, are ultimately our achilles heel. This is fragile and can chip away at your sanity long before you sit on any witness stand.

The pattern is now like clockwork in athletic departments and universities around the country in cases of discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment and Title IX claims.”

Becky also highlights that while some cases of female coach discrimination hits the media in a big way, many cases are forgotten or ignored.  Thanks to Becky for this list:

Petra Martin – Rutgers University Swimming and Diving Coach – Fired in 2017

Robin Sparks – Volleyball Coach Quinnipiac University – Fired 2012

Beth Burns – Basketball Coach San Diego – Fired 2013

Stacey Johnson-Klein – Basketball Coach Fresno State – Fired 2005 

Connie Yori – Basketball Coach Nebraska – Resigned in 2002

Jody Runge – Basketball Coach Oregon – Resigned 2001 

Shannon Miller – Ice Hockey UMD Minnesota – Fired 2015

Tracey Griesbaum –  Field Hockey Iowa –  Fired 2014

Kathy Bull – Tennis Coach Ball State – Fired 2010

Jen Banford – Softball UMD Minnesota – Fired 2015

SOURCE: Image from Becky Carlson

Muffet McGraw v Geno Auriemma

A recent ‘argument’ has been made public between two Division 1 Basketball coaches Muffet McGraw (Head Coach to Notre Dam) and Geno Auriemma (Head Coach to Uconn).  In a recent article written for the website ThinkProgress.org, Muffet highlighted that she felt “People are hiring too many men.”

The article states:

“In last year’s Final Four, McGraw was the only female head coach. For the past 40 years, as women’s basketball has grown in popularity and prestige, she’s seen white men enter the sport and immediately grab prominent positions while women struggle to get their feet in the door for an interview.

She’s watched those who are hired deal with both systemic and targeted discrimination and harassment. She’s seen how, when women get fired, second chances are hard to come by. And she knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with a level of scrutiny that their male counterparts could never imagine — from focus on their looks, to a policing of their anger. Unparalleled success isn’t enough to stave off the never-ending questioning of their priorities and vision.”

The article was met by criticism by the outspoken male head coach Geno Auriemma:

“I hope she sends a thank you to all those guys that used to be on her staff that got her all those good players that won a championship,”

For the last 7 years, Muffet McGraw has had a full female coaching staff and confidently states that she will never hire another male coach.  Since having a female only coaching team, Notre Dame has been in the Final Four 4 times, 3 national championship games and are the defending champions going into this years Final Four on Friday 5th April 2019.

To read the full article by Think Progress and to learn more about the Muffet McGraw set up CLICK HERE

Sylvia Hatchell

Sylvia is the Head Coach of North Carolina Women’s Basketball Team.  She currently has the fourth most career wins in women basketball, won a number of awards for coach of the year, inducted into the women basketball hall of fame and has a winning record of 1023 – 405.

On 1st April 2019, she was unexpectedly put on ‘paid leave’ with the entire program put under review by the University stating “issues raised by student-athletes and others”.

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, a Charlotte-based firm, will conduct the review, and will “assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes,” according to a statement. No timetable was announced, and no further information was provided.

Sylvia released a statement:

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said in the statement. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life. I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me.

I love them all. Of course, I will cooperate fully in this review. I look forward to a prompt conclusion of this matter and the continuation of our very successful women’s basketball program.”

As of April 19th, Sylvia resigned.

Sylvia is accused of using racist comments to fire up her squad and is quoted as saying to her players “they would be “hanged from trees with nooses” if their game did not improve.”

The parents of the girls on the team also said Hatchell, referred to the team as “old mules,” and that some people took took that to mean female slaves.

Hatchell also tried to get players to “engage in a ‘war chant’ to ‘honor’ the Native American ancestry of an assistant coach,” who was “visibly uncomfortable.”

Sylvia has of yet not spoken out herself, but her attorney, Wade Smith, said in a phone interview that the comments attributed to her by parents of players are incorrect and misconstrued.  Wade stated that what she actually said was, ‘They’re going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry,’”

“There is not a racist bone in her body. . . . A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach, and a truly world-class human being.”

Wade Smith also said Sylvia didn’t recall the allegations about pressuring injured players to return to play, but said she never would have tried to convince anyone to play whom the medical staff had not cleared.

Read full story according to the Washington Post HERE and HERE

MaChelle Joseph

Machelle Joseph was the Head Coach of women’s basketball team at Georgia Tech University in the U.S. and has been since 2003. She had been an assistant coach for Illinois, Purdue, Auburne and Georgia Tech before becoming the Head Coach.  In November 2018, she raised some Title IX concerns regarding “significant disparities in salary allocation for assistant coaches; funding for publicity and marketing; the condition of the locker room; and the methods of travel.”

In March 2019, she was fired.

Georgia Tech University is alleging that Machelle created a “toxic” environment, one rife with verbal and mental abuse. Machelle, in contrast, is alleging that the school sought out a reason to fire her due to her raising Title IX concerns, citing inferior treatment from the administration in contrast to their male counterparts, laying out a timeline of her concerns that predates the investigation against her and, Machelle says, was the reason an investigation of her happened at all.

Machelle released a statement at the beginning of April:

“Instead of engaging me in a good faith discussion about my concerns, the Institute, under the *redacted* Athletic Department *redacted* leadership has attempted to silence me — terminating the former Senior Woman Administrator (“SWA”) who also had advocated for change, mocking me for repeatedly raising these issues, angrily accusing me of “attacking” the school or men’s athletics with my complaints, and vowing to “get rid” of me.

Over the past three years, and in response to my complaints of discrimination, certain members of the Athletic Department…have subjected me to pattern of ongoing retaliation and harassment, baselessly accusing me of wrongdoing and attempting to interfere with my team and my players.

To read more of the statement, CLICK HERE

Reactions to the current situation:

“If you support women coaches in this fight AND you care about athletes you will give it a read.”

Athlete abuse and mis-treatment is, according to Becky “a hot button item” right now in College Sports.  There are countless stories and news items regarding the athlete mis-treatment of athletes at US Colleges.

In recent events, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo (pictured above) was seen by thousands in the stands and millions on TV as he screamed, shouted at player Aaron Henry and had to be restrained by his own players.

“If you don’t think some college coaches use the threat of withdrawing a scholarship as a lever to do pretty much whatever they please, you’re not living in the real world. Bullying tactics that would never be acceptable in a normal adult workplace are considered a matter of course.”

SOURCE: David Jones @ Pennlive.com

In an article written by Becky Carlson, she interviews a male friend of hers who she quotes:

“You know, I think it’s hilarious that all these female athletes are crushing their own female coaches for looking at them sideways while me and 80 of my teammates in college got absolutely torn to shreds every single day for four years playing college football.”

Becky goes on to say:

“I paused. I didn’t laugh because it’s not funny.

I actually felt bad for him, but he was sharing an intriguing observation. I’ve heard horror stories about entire college football coaching staffs terrorizing their athletes. In addition to football, I’ve heard some of the most stomach churning male treatment stories in soccer, lacrosse and baseball.

You may have even read about these stories but after the head shaking shock value wears off, you move on. We are conditioned to believe that these are just a few bad apple reports and that this isn’t happening on a broader scale. This would be a fine assumption if currently institutions were directing their investigations into men’s programs to the same degree they are launching aggressive full-scale character attacks on women coaching veterans like MaChelle Joseph and Sylvia Hatchell.”

As Becky mentions in her quote above, there seems to be a huge difference in the way male coaches are ‘dealt with’ when addressing potential cases of athlete abuse and the female coaches who are accused of abuse.

Here are a selection of some of the cases involving male coaches, all who have been re-instated:

Tom Izzo – Michigan State

Brad Underwood – Illinois 

Will Wade – LSU 

Joe Alleva – Athletic Director LSU 

In the last 4 months, 4 male coaches have been cleared of abuse, in the last 2 years, no women coaches.


“ultimately athletic departments couldn’t care less about what happens to their male athletes as much as they care about cleansing their departments of non-revenue producing female coaches who question the system.”

Read Becky’s article HERE

Further reading:

Notre Dame Muffet McGraw won’t take the bait

Female Coaches; Here is how schools are getting rid of us

Second Chances in NCAA Coaching – women need not apply

The Shannon Miller Case 

Today my friend and Colleague Sue Parker of Harvard Rugby was fired from her Job

FEARLESS COACH INTERVIEW PART 1; What do you think is the biggest issue facing female coaches in college sports at the moment?

FEARLESS COACH INTERVIEW PART 2; What is it that sparked the need to launch your project the “Fearless Coach“ and why do you advocate so loudly for women coaches? 

FEARLESS COACH INTERVIEW PART 3; How can we change the culture in a department if the female coaches are being treated badly?

FEARLESS COACH PART 4; Do you think one of the ways that women can deal with all of these issues is by connecting with other women and supporting each other through this? 

FEARLESS COACH PART 5; What advice would you give to female coaches in the NCAA?

How Schools are Getting it Wrong on Athlete Abuse

The never-ending cycle of scandal around college coaches has to stop