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UNT looks beyond gender in hiring of coaches
Tyler Owens / Senior Staff Writer
Though there are seven all-female sports at UNT, none of those sports are currently coached by a woman.
When former women’s basketball head coach Karen Aston left the Mean Green for the head coaching job at the University of Texas, Mike Petersen was hired to coach the team, filling the final coaching spot with another man.
Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said that while all options are considered when hiring coaches, especially for women’s sports, he always looks at it from the perspective of who would be the best for the job.
“We don’t just look out there and go, ‘I like this lady’ or ‘I like this man,’” he said. “My philosophy is that I’m always going to hire who I believe is the best coach for the team regardless of what somebody might say. Our student athletes are the No. 1 concern in my job.”
After Title IX was enacted in 1972 to prevent sexual discrimination in both academics and sports, the number of women’s sports teams jumped from 2.5 teams per school to 8.73 per school, according to a report by Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, two former professors of Brooklyn College.
With the rise in total teams, however, nationally, the percentage of women coaches coaching female players has dipped from 90 percent in 1972 to 42.9 percent in 2012, according to Acosta and Carpenter’s report.
In the NFL, the Rooney Rule requires that teams interview at least one member of each minority for coaching positions to ensure fair coaching opportunities.
Although the NCAA doesn’t have the same rule, Villarreal said that in the hiring process, the university branches out to many organizations, such as the NCAA and the Black Coaches Association, in order to fill a vacancy, but its resources typically depend on the situation and timing of the vacated position on the coaching staff.
“The reality is that you’re always in anticipation that you’re going to lose a coach,” Villarreal said. “Whether they’re doing really well or it’s not a good situation, you always need to be prepared that anything could happen.”
Junior women’s basketball guard Laura McCoy has had the opportunity to work with three different coaches, two women and one man, during her time at UNT and said that she has enjoyed the experience of working with Petersen.
“I think men can get away with being a little calmer,” McCoy said. “They demand respect just because they’re men. Women tend to be a little more feisty and scream, but [Petersen] is very calm and patient, yet everyone still respects him.”
Petersen and head tennis coach Sujay Lama have both had the opportunities to work with men and women at the collegiate level and said that there are differences in the mental and social aspects.
Petersen said that he ensures that his athletes’ relationships between one another are emphasized because that is very important to them.
When Lama began his coaching career, former top-20 tennis star Amanda Coetzer asked him to be her traveling coach. She quickly became successful, and from there, Lama was pegged by most as a women’s coach.
He said he does not mind that and feels comfortable, especially after coaching women for almost 20 years. This comfort translates to the UNT tennis team – a roster that consists entirely of players from other countries.
“One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we’ve created that family culture in our program,” Lama said. “It’s important that they know that they have a family here. In some ways I am a father figure to them, and that’s important because it gives them stability.”
In the end, success depends on how coaches handle their teams and how well they work with the student athletes. That is what Mean Green Athletics will continue to focus on in the hiring process.
“I never look at male, female, black, white,” Villarreal said. “In my business, I can’t do that and I don’t do that. I look at the best possible candidates.”