Tucker Center report: Number of women college coaches still not making the grade

Cincinnati, with Jamelle Elliott as its women's basketball coach, and Central Florida again received an A grade from the Tucker Center. David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports

The number of women in head-coaching positions in major NCAA Division I athletics has stagnated, according to a report from the University of Minnesota's Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

The Tucker Center's report card, which has been released annually since 2012, was issued Wednesday to commemorate National Girls & Women in Sports Day. The research issues a call to action for the 86 universities studied for this year's report card, which concluded that after two consecutive years of noted improvement, the increase in female head coaches for women's sports from 2015-16 to 2016-17 was negligible.

"The percentage of women coaches is not increasing in any statistically significant way despite the efforts of many individuals and groups," the report stated. "That is not to say these efforts are not working. Without data documentation to hold decision makers accountable, dialogue, a collective effort, and dedicated resources, the decline would certainly persist. Efforts must continue."

Only one sport, field hockey, has all women head coaches for a women's sport. Lacrosse (86.2 percent), golf (83.1), equestrian (75) and softball (72.9) are the other sports that received an A on the Tucker Center's report card.

Of the 964 women's head-coaching openings filled at the time of the research, just 41.1 percent, or 397 positions, were women. That number remained the same as last year despite an opportunity for marked improvement: There were 71 head-coaching vacancies at the institutions researched by the Tucker Center, and more than half of those positions wound up being filled by men.

Inclusion of women in coaching isn't just done for a grade, though. The report card gives coaches, athletics directors and others in college sports leadership a clearer picture of what the coaching landscape looks like for women's sports -- and, for some schools, can be a recruiting pitch for coaches.

"An above average Report Card grade indicates, in part, a workplace climate that values inclusion and diversity and supports women," the report says. "An above average grade may not accurately reflect or guarantee a positive or healthy workplace climate for women, but it is a good general indicator."

Cincinnati and Central Florida, both of the American Athletic Conference, were the only schools to receive an A for their inclusion of women's coaches. Cincinnati has earned an A for five straight years and is the only school to do so, and athletics director Mike Bohn said he makes creating an inclusive and family-friendly atmosphere a priority. Cincinnati's volleyball coach, for example, has language in her contract to accommodate travel for her family as well as child care.

"I think that creates a competitive spirit that's healthy. I think it creates an environment where they realize other women and women of color are doing well in this department," Bohn said. "We're proud that we have the ability to boast of that culture when we're recruiting coaches, and we've been very successful at retaining our women in senior leadership positions as well."

For the third straight year, more schools earned A or B grades than received F's, thanks to an increase in the number of schools who made it to the B range. However, the broader picture remains much the same for women's sports. Since Title IX legislation passed in 1972, according to the report, the percentage of women coaching women's sports has fallen from 90 to 40.

"The good news is that the decline seems to have stopped," the report said. "[But] It is simply not possible that as each new generation of females becomes increasingly involved in and shaped by their sport experience, they simultaneously become less interested, less passionate, and less qualified to enter the coaching profession. We can do better."