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Small uptick in Black female coaches at Power Five schools

The Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences have led the way among the so-called power leagues in hiring coaches of color to lead women’s basketball programs.

The two conferences each have five Black head coaches, including three women changing jobs in the most recent cycle: Texas A&M’s Joni Taylor, Syracuse’s Felisha Legette-Jack and Virginia’s Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. Four of the ACC coaches are Black women while Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks is the only Black male head coach of a women’s team at a Power Five school.

The total number doesn’t suggest a major shift over the past two seasons across 65 Power Five schools with 14 Black women being in charge of teams - up one from 2021. That’s less than 22% of the total in a sport that was played by more Black athletes (40.7%) than any other race, according to a report with data from the 2020-21 season.

Still, hiring trends are leaning towards more equality with five of the 12 openings in the Power Five conferences this past offseason going to women of color.

“It’s a very solid number,” Richard Lapchick, who is the head of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida, said of the ACC and SEC. “If that persisted over a number of years, I think there would be a lot of happy black women head coaches spread across the Power Five conferences that aren’t there now.”

Lapchick also pointed to the fact that the ACC has two Black female athletic directors (at Duke and at Virginia). The SEC also has two female minority ADs, at Vanderbilt and Missouri.

“I think there is something to be said about leaders making decisions,” Duke AD Nina King said. “You have a diverse group and you’ll bring a diverse group of coaches to the table.”

King said that the conversations need to continue: “We need to understand what the barriers are and why aren’t there more Black women getting hired. We need to knock down the barriers.”

The Pac-12 and Big Ten have been giving more Black women a chance. Three of the last four hires in the Pac-12 have been women of color and two of the last three in the Big Ten. The Big 12 has no Black coaches of its women’s basketball teams after four hirings over the past two seasons.

“There needs to be more opportunity, it should be equal opportunity,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “And obviously, statistics have shown that that’s been a little skewed. So I like to see that the times are changing a little bit and more people are getting opportunities, including myself.”

Lapchick pointed to the success of Dawn Staley, who became the first Black coach, male or female. to win two national championships. She was rewarded last year by South Carolina with one of the biggest contracts in women’s basketball history, a landmark $22.4 million, seven-year contract.

“I think Dawn getting a million-dollar contract was one of the biggest breakthroughs in women’s sports,” he said. “Long overdue, but it actually happened. So this is going to be good for other women following in her footsteps, not just there but around the country at other schools as well.”

Staley has been happy to see the door open for more Black women.

“There is an influx of Black women getting opportunities,” she said. “Black women are getting more chances to be the head honcho of their programs. I hope we can continue to be successful.”

Staley has inspired other Black coaches not just with what she’s done on the court, but also what she’s done off it, by sending them a piece of her championship net from 2017.

“Dawn Staley is a staple for women of color,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “She talks about it, she had the net that she sent out to everyone just to empower all the female head coaches. And I think just having opportunity, understanding how much how much representation really does matter, I think is powerful. I definitely think we’re trending in the right direction. And I think it’s a positive thing.”

Ivey wants to continue what Staley has done.

“I want to do a great job because I want my opportunity to be able to extend to someone else,” she said. “Obviously you don’t want to fail and then the tide changes. It’s not something that I think about as far as pressure. I’m blessed to be in this role. I’m going do my best because I love what I do and I love this university. And I’m hoping that my work speaks for itself.”