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OSU has fewest Big 12 female head coaches

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Coach Courtney Jones

Oklahoma State athletics may be near the top of most rankings, but there is one thing they are certainly last in.

The Alliance of Women Coaches and the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports performed a recent study of 76 Division I universities for the 2013-14 school year to examine the amount of women’s sports at each university that had a woman as head coach. The study revealed that OSU was not only last in the Big 12, but also among all 76 schools examined with only 12.5 percent, or one of eight, of OSU women’s sports being coached by a woman.

“I would like to think that when we’ve hired a coach, we’ve just tried to hire the best individual available,” OSU Athletics Director Mike Holder said. “It didn’t matter what gender. It didn’t matter what race.”

Holder said the school’s goal is always to hire a coach who can best serve his or her athletes.

“You’re just looking for the best coach because what you’re trying to do is provide the best experience for your athletes,” he said. “I would guess that when we did our searches, we felt the individual we hired was the best person for the job.”

For OSU, 12.5 percent is actually an improvement over 2012-13, when no women’s sports had a woman head coach. Courtney Jones was promoted to head coach of the women’s golf team for the 2013-2014 season after Alan Bratton took over as men’s golf coach following Mike McGraw’s firing in June.

The University of Texas led the Big 12 conference with 63.6 percent, followed by Kansas State University and the University of Oklahoma at 50 percent. West Virginia University joins OSU as the only Big 12 schools below 20 percent, with 18.2 percent.

Despite this, Holder does not believe it has any impact on athletic recruiting at OSU.

“I’d like to think no,” he said. “Just do a comparison of how our teams are performing with a lot of the schools that may have more female coaches.”

Holder finds that the athletes will still have a desire to compete no matter who is coaching them, man or woman.

“I think at the end of the day, the athlete wants to win, wants to be in a program that has the capability and potential, then actually realizes the dream of being a championship program,” he said.

Cowgirl athletics has managed to be successful despite the lack of women head coaches. Jim Littell has led the Cowgirls basketball team to a 14-1 record, a No. 15 ranking in the nation and is just one of eight male coaches in the Top 25. Colin Carmichael has taken the women’s soccer team to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship in seven of the last eight seasons, while earning Big 12 titles in four of the last six years. The equestrian team is currently No. 7 in the nation, led by head coach Larry Sanchez.

“I think our women’s sports are doing very well,” Holder said. “They’re performing at a high level. I think this current group of athletes and coaches is performing at just about as high a level as we’ve seen in the history of OSU women’s athletics.”

A lack of success would lead to coaching changes, though not necessarily gender changes.

“Anytime a team’s not successful, you’re probably going to have a coaching change,” Holder said. “When you have that coaching change, I don’t think you can go into the search saying that (the new coach) has to be a particular gender. Your preference might be to hire a female coach. Looking from the outside in, it would be much better if you had more female coaches, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be judged by your win-loss record.”

Holder does not see an upcoming increase to the 12.5 percent of female head coaches at OSU.

“The only opportunity for that (percentage to increase) would be if you had a change in leadership and your coaches,” he said. “Do I anticipate some coaches leaving or getting rid of some coaches? No, I don’t see that happening. I think we’ve got a lot of good coaches in place and for the most part, our teams are performing at a very high level. Until something changes that dynamic, you’re not going to have opportunity to go to a greater percentage of female coaches.”