Editorials, Opinion

WVU scores with new hire; misses gender layup

We’d like to welcome Mark Kellogg and his family to Morgantown. We hope they feel that country roads have indeed brought them home. 

Kellogg comes to us after coaching the Stephen F. Austin women’s basketball team for eight years. Under his guidance, the Lumberjacks averaged 24 victories per season and played in two NCAA tournaments. This past season, his team finished 27-7 and advanced to the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. If you’d like to read more about Kellogg and his future among the Mountaineers, visit the sports pages.  

We are glad to welcome Kellogg to the Mountaineer family, and we wish him great and continued success in the year(s) to come.  

We do wish, however, that Wren Baker and WVU Athletics had given greater consideration to hiring a female coach to lead the women’s basketball team. 

This sentiment in no way reflects on Kellogg personally or professionally, nor is it meant to diminish his achievements or imply he isn’t a good fit. 

Sports is a male-dominated field — particularly in coaching or administrative positions — and what opportunities exist for women are primarily in women’s sports. (Last year, we celebrated outlier Leighann Sainato for becoming the Black Bears’ general manager.) So when men are prioritized for coaching positions in women’s sports, it further limits already limited opportunities. 

According to a study released last month, the number of women leading women’s college teams is still less than half. As the Associated Press reported, “Women held just 42% of head coaching positions of women’s teams in NCAA Division I — a slight increase from the previous season — as well as 35.6% in Division II and 43.8% in Division III. For all three divisions combined, women filled 41.2% of head coaching positions and 50.3% of assistant coaching positions for women’s teams.”  

A 2022 NPR report noted that specifically for Division 1 women’s basketball, women only made up about 63% of head coaches; in the Big 12, it was only 40%. At WVU, which has nine women’s teams and one co-ed team, the head coaches are 90% men but the rest of the coaching staff are about 37% men and 63% women. Does that tell women athletes that they are good enough to help a male leader, but not good enough to be leaders?   

Nicole LaVoi, author of Women in Sports Coaching, said, “Research shows that same-sex role models positively influence self-perceptions. They challenge stereotypes about gender and leadership and offer diverse perspectives, insight and advice to their athletes. One hundred percent of male athletes have had a male coaching role model during their athletic careers, to their benefit; young women likewise need and deserve more same-sex role models.”  

Male athletes say all the time how a certain coach influenced them and how the players wanted to emulate him. Women athletes should have the chance to experience that — which means having a woman coach. 

Before her departure, Dawn Plitzuweit had a solidly winning season, and the Mountaineers made it to the NCAA tournament for only the 14th time since 1989 — and for the first time under a first-year coach. Three of the women’s basketball teams who competed in the Final Four are coached by women.  

So there is evidence that women coaches can and have been victorious — when given the chance.