Title IX, introduced in 1972, aimed to eliminate gender discrimination in college athletics. While Title IX requires colleges to provide equitable opportunity to men and women to participate in sports through roster numbers, scholarship funds, and competitive opportunities, it does not have any regulations on gender equity in coaching.
In 2020, 95% of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s sports teams had head coaches identifying as men, according to the Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics data. By comparison, less than half of women’s teams had head coaches identifying as women.
The gender disparity remains in the assistant coaching ranks in college athletics, making it more difficult for women to move up to a head coaching position in the future.
Among the top eight college sports by revenue, women were less than 15% of head coaches in men’s sports. Across the 1,000 NCAA colleges, there were no women as head coaches for men’s football, soccer, baseball, or basketball teams. By comparison, men were 66% of women’s soccer head coaches, 33% of softball head coaches, and 43% of women’s basketball head coaches.
The gender split was much more varied in women’s sports. Of the top eight women’s sports by revenue, lacrosse had the highest proportion of women working as head coaches at 84%. Women’s track, tennis, and soccer had less than one-third of head coaches identify as women.
Since 2003, gender representation of NCAA head coaches has remained consistent. Women were between 41% and 45% of head coaches for women’s teams during that time and between 3% and 5% of head coaches of men’s teams.
These trends remained consistent when looking at Division 1 sports, the highest level of college sports in the NCAA. Most professional athletes in the US come out of Division 1 teams, which give out more athletic scholarships. In 2020, 93% of men’s teams at that level had men as head coaches. About 46% of women’s teams at that level had women as head coaches.
Even in the less competitive Division II and Division III leagues, women have not made any more inroads into coaching positions. Across these leagues, men comprised 95% of head coaches for men’s sports and 56% of head coaches for women’s sports.
Many head coaches get their start as assistant coaches and work their way up the ranks. The current assistant coaching pipeline demonstrates that inequalities between men and women on coaching staffs remain, making it more difficult for women to earn future head coaching positions.
In 2020, 8% of assistant coaches on men’s teams identified as women; meanwhile, slightly more than half of assistant coaches on women’s teams identified as women.
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