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Report Describes Increase in Female Athletes but Lack of Female Coaches

More women than ever before played NCAA sports this year, but high-profile coaching jobs for women continued to decline, a new report has found.

Opportunities for female head coaches in women’s basketball, the most prominent women’s sport, dropped sharply from 2012 to 2014. This year, just 75 big-time programs—or 60 percent—had a female head coach. Two years ago, 84 programs did, according to the report, “Women in Intercollegiate Sport: A Longitudinal National Study.”

“Even tiny movement makes a difference in a lot of peoples’ lives—both the athletes and the employees,” said Linda J. Carpenter, an emeritus professor at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a co-author of the report. “But then you look at the calendar and realize it’s 42 years after Title IX was enacted. If that’s the case, you would certainly have hoped that we would be further along and that swifter, faster changes would have taken place.”

Nearly 190,000 women played sports this year across all three NCAA levels, the report says, with the wealthiest programs having the largest average number of teams.

From 2012 to 2014, 26 new teams were added at the NCAA’s highest level, the Football Bowl Subdivision. That equates to roughly 300 new athletes, Ms. Carpenter said. (The report does not tally roster spots, and it includes opportunities for both scholarship and nonscholarship players.)

Despite those gains, the number of female head coaches in many large women’s programs declined. This year, there were fewer women head coaches than there were in 2012 in women’s soccer, cross-country, and swimming and diving, three other sports that are offered by a large number of big-time programs.

“All the big ones have gone down,” Ms. Carpenter said. “And because there are so many teams, it means an awful lot of women have been replaced.”

Over all, head-coaching opportunities for women increased across all three NCAA divisions between 2012 and 2014. But as of this year, an average of just four out of 10 coaches for women’s teams were females.

There are many reasons for the decline of female head coaches. In women’s basketball, many big-time programs have spent beyond their means in pursuit of NCAA tournament success, with some paying their head coaches more than $1-million a year. Some observers say that has helped attract more men to the profession, while others say a lack of female athletics administrators has helped keep the women’s numbers low.

The report also looks at the fastest-growing women’s sports. Basketball was the only sport offered by every top-level NCAA program, the report says. Based on the percentage of programs offering a sport, the next-most-popular sports were track and field, soccer, volleyball, and cross-country.

Track jumped from fourth to second in 2014, with more than 98 percent of top-level NCAA programs offering a program. Volleyball went from 100 percent to about 97 percent.

Ms. Carpenter and her co-author, R. Vivian Acosta, also an emeritus professor at Brooklyn College, have produced the report for more than three decades. This year, more than 1,100 NCAA institutions responded to the survey it’s based on.

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