On Wednesday, Marquette women’s basketball began their search for the sixth head coach in program history when Carolyn Kieger was hired by Penn State to take their top job. According to the press release announcing Kieger’s departure, Marquette will be conducting a “national search” for the next coach, but that’s also just something that you say in a press release to make it sound like you’re trying very hard.
In an interview with Marquette Wire’s John Steppe, MU athletic director Bill Scholl said “We will hire a great coach, and we will push on. We will continue to compete at the highest end of the Big East, and we expect more great stuff out of our program,” as well as saying that he was looking for a fit for Marquette’s values and a history of building “the right culture.” Those are also the kinds of thing that you say in public when being interviewed immediately upon the departure of one of your most successful coaches over the last few years.
I have a tiny request to make to go along with all of those things that Scholl said. We’re still very early in the process, so hopefully it will ring true in the ears of people making these kinds of decisions.
Please hire a woman.
As of Friday’s announcement that Xavier has hired Michigan associate head coach Melanie Moore to replace Brian Neal, there are nine head women’s basketball coaches in the Big East. Moore, who hasn’t actually drawn a paycheck yet, is the only woman. For those of you counting along at home, yes, that means that Carolyn Kieger was the only woman steering a ship in the conference this past season. It’s actually been that way for the past two seasons, ever since Natasha Adair was replaced at Georgetown by James Howard. Five of the eight men currently in charge of a Big East women’s hoops team were hired this decade, so there is a certain amount of a general trend going on here.
If you’re wondering why exactly I’m making a request to the university to look at hiring a woman to coach women’s basketball, let’s turn our attention to the pregame press conferences at the Final Four on Thursday. Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw, who hasn’t even had a male assistant coach on her staff for the past seven years, took to the podium and made her case.
Here’s the big quotes from McGraw’s answer to a question about being a voice for women in college basketball, just so we have them all written down in plain digital ink to be seen:
“We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.”
“All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, we’re teaching them great things about life skills, but wouldn’t it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead?”
“When you look at men’s basketball, 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. That’s the problem.”
If one of the most successful coaches in the country is calling for this, then I think it’s fair to ask Marquette to lean into helping her out here. It can’t be ignored that of the four solely women’s sports at Marquette that currently have a head coach, only two of them have a woman running the show: Jodi Bronson in tennis and Meredith Black in lacrosse. That’s not fully telling the story, though. Bronson isn’t solely in control of her team, as men’s tennis coach Steve Rodecap is MU’s Director of Tennis. In addition to that current 50/50 split, which isn’t even really 50/50, Mike Nelson is the coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country teams, while Bert Rogers runs the show for the indoor and outdoor ends of men’s and women’s track and field. I don’t want to bang on the university for having one head coach for both the men and the women in those departments, but we also have to point out the fact that Nelson has no full-time assistant coaches, while Rogers has just one woman amongst his four full-time assistant coaches.
When MU hired Carolyn Kieger to replace Terri Mitchell, they continued the path of having a woman in charge of the woman’s basketball team. Given that Kieger was a Marquette graduate and ready for her first head coaching gig, the decision was almost too easy to make. I don’t know if there’s another obvious home run candidate out there like Kieger this time. What I do know is that Marquette can stand up here and make a statement about the importance and impact of having women in leadership roles for the next generation of women, and the generation after that, too. It’s right there in the athletic department’s Strategic Plan: “Foster a culture in athletics defined by diversity, inclusion, and integrity.” Hiring a woman to coach the women’s basketball team nails down all three.