University of Minnesota ranks among the highest in hiring women’s head coaches

Minnesota has been given a "B" grade every year since the Tucker Center created its report eight years ago.

Head coach Lindsay Whalen reacts to a scored point at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The Gophers fell to Missouri State 69-77.

Liam Armstrong

Head coach Lindsay Whalen reacts to a scored point at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The Gophers fell to Missouri State 69-77.

Paul Hodowanic

The University of Minnesota was once again ranked among the top universities in the nation for the hiring of women head coaches in women’s sports, a new report found Tuesday. 

In an annual report released by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, the University of Minnesota was given a “B,” ranking first among Big Ten universities and seventh nationally. The report graded 87 schools in the seven major Division I conferences on a A-F scale. 

Of the 12 women’s sports at the University of Minnesota, there are 14 head coaching positions as some sports have two head coaches. Nine of the total coaching positions at the University are held by women, or 64.3%.  Only two other schools — Ohio State and University of California Berkley – employ nine or more female head coaches.  

Four universities received an “A” grade, which requires at least 70% of women’s sports to be coached by women: Cincinnati, Central Florida, Washington and Oklahoma. 

Minnesota has been given a “B” grade every year since the Tucker Center created its report eight years ago.

“Just speaking from my experience, the U definitely has a greater priority on having women in leadership roles,” women’s soccer head coach Stefanie Golan said last November. “One of the things you want to be able to do if you’re a young assistant or if you’re a student athlete who’s thinking about the possibility of making this a career is being able to look up and see people like you. I think here, they can certainly do that.”

It’s a sentiment shared not only by Golan. 

“I feel very well supported,” women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Whalen said last November. “I feel like our administration does a great job of giving us everything we need to be successful, and so I’m thankful to be a part of this program at this time.”

Nicole Lavoi, author of the report and senior lecturer in the University’s School of Kinesiology, said Minnesota’s sustained success goes back more than 15 years when the University had separate athletic programs for men’s and women’s sports. 

“When those merged 15 years ago, the commitment to sustaining gender equity in sports remained a core foundational tenant of running the athletic department that I think you can still see today,” Lavoi said last November. “They had a rich tradition then and I think the current leaders, [athletic director] Mark Coyle and [assistant athletic director] Julie Manning, are continuing that tradition, which we should be really proud of.”

While the average percentage of women head coaches across the country increased for the seventh year in a row, to 42.3%, the growth has been only incremental. In 2013-14, it was 39.4%. 

Nine schools received failing grades. Oklahoma State was the worst among them, with zero of its eight women’s sports being coached by women. 

“That [data] just shows that even when there is an opportunity to hire women to coach women, a majority of those opportunities are still going to men,” Lavoi said. 

However, Minnesota remains one of the success stories. 

“It’s a nationwide problem and comparatively the University of Minnesota does quite well compared to peer institutions and I think that is something we need to celebrate,” Lavoi said.