Muffet McGraw, the two-time championship-winning head coach of women’s basketball at University of Notre Dame, was dancing a jig and celebrating Friday night after leading her team to victory over the University of Connecticut.
The NCAA women’s basketball championship game is now set for Sunday — setting up a possible third win for McGraw — with the reigning national champion Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish taking on No. 1 seed the Lady Bears of Baylor University.
But this past Thursday, McGraw’s mood was more serious when answering a question about her recently reported commitment to never hire another male coach for her staff.
She began talking about the decades that the Equal Rights Amendments has gone without ratification: “We need 38 states to agree that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional. We’ve had a record number of women running for office and winning. And still, we have 23 percent of the House and 25 percent of the Senate.”
McGraw was responding to a question about being the “voice” of female coaches in college athletics after University of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who won 1,098 games with the Lady Volunteers for more than 38 years, died in 2016.
McGraw’s two-minute response, touching on the long history of sexism in many American institutions, went viral.
“I’m getting tired of the novelty of … the first female governor of this state. The first female African-American mayor of this city,” she said. “When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception? How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.”
She said girls are socialized to think “men run the world.” Where better to counter that narrative than in sports, she asked.
“When you look at men’s basketball and 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99 percent of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women? Maybe it’s because we only have 10 percent women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people who look like them. And that’s the problem.”
In 1972, Title IX enacted gender equity policies in student athletics as part of a law. Two years later, more than 90 percent of women’s teams in college sports had female coaches, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.
That number has fallen drastically. The center’s newest report based on data from last year found the percentage of female head coaches had increased slightly from previous years, but only to 41.8 percent. The group took data from 86 institutions that were part of the NCAA Division I “big time” conferences.
In basketball specifically, the percent of women coaching women was 59.3 in 2018.
Samantha Brunelle, a high-profile incoming recruit to Notre Dame, tweeted the video of McGraw’s answer, saying it was “one of the many reasons why Notre Dame was the place for me.”
“I aspire to be like her one day,” Brunelle told the South Bend Tribune of South Bend, Ind. “She stands for women so much. She has a huge voice to help give us women more of a platform.”
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