This is my snarky Sunday post that comes after a week of hearing the debate (in person and in the media) whether cheerleading should be counted as a sport. I won't enter into the debate here. You can check out the Title IX Blog for some coverage of the Quinnipiac University trial that has thrust this issue into arguably the brightest spotlight it has ever felt.
Debbie Yow, the newly appointed AD at North Carolina State, is largely responsible for introducing this debate into intercollegiate athletics and engendering the consternation over gender equity and Title IX. Competitive cheer was added to the list of varsity sports at Maryland while she was the AD there. UMD was the first school to do so. Maryland needed to add opportunities for women. It had several options including women's ice hockey (hence some of my bitterness), but the athletic department went with cheerleading which had previously been an athletic activity involving both sideline cheerleading and some competitive element.
I am getting dangerously close to entering into the debate in a way I said I would not. So I will just note that the people at QU, who are trying to create a governing body for competitive cheer (one of the requirements for an activity to be considered a sport) must be psyched that the woman who created the first competitive cheer program in the country has moved to a new school. Now they may be able to count on another school to enter their little club (of less than ten schools).
I also want to note that some will celebrate, and have celebrated when she was at Maryland, Yow's position as an AD at a big-time athletics school--because she is a woman. That her position illustrates either progress (or re-progress if you look back just a little bit in history) or commitment to gender equity by some schools, or some sort of utopian gender blind society that we are in or near. [Or some combination of all of those.] Just because she is a woman, doesn't mean she is going to do any better or worse than others in a similar position. I too bemoan the lack of female administrators in athletics, but add "women and stir" is never really an effective strategy in any arena.* Sure, I haven't been entirely pleased with the way some men run athletic departments, but Yow too has played the game (rules created and enforced by men) to get where she is at. Maybe she always bought into the game, maybe she wanted to change the rules, maybe she just wanted to make enough space for herself on the playing field (I am getting carried away with this metaphor!). The thing is, I don't know if we can really say that she has helped (my version of help obviously) the situation for female student-athletes, athletics as a whole, or even female administrators and coaches. I don't know the full history of her tenure at UMD. I have heard things here and there, however. And since this isn't a trial, I admit hearsay into evidence.
* A point I will make again shortly when I post about a female sports reporter and her belief that we just move beyond Title IX.