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Being a female in a collegiate athletics can be lonely, frustrating and confusing. Or powerful and rewarding.
Because most women in athletics have felt these emotions and more, six people discussed the facts, myths and realities about the roles and responsibilities of the senior woman administrator (SWA) in Division II athletics. They spoke at the annual Fall Forum of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) in Austin TX in October.
They were: Jan Brown, NCAA director for Division II governance; Dorth Raphaely, special events coordinator at Stanford University CA who has researched the SWA role on college campuses; Dr. Michael Kovalchik, AD at Hillsdale College MI; Mary T. Gardner, AD at Bloomsburg University PA; Monique Morgan, SWA and assistant to the commissioner of the CIAA conference; and Karen Hjerpe, SWA at California University of Pennsylvania.
Since both colleges and athletics often marginalize women in athletics departments, Division II especially has made a strong effort to educate male ADs about the benefits women as SWAs bring to their departments. A partnership between the NCAA and NACWAA brought SWAs from 22 athletics conferences to this Austin conference, to enhance their skills and learn how to succeed.
Historical role of SWAs
Before the 1970s, colleges and universities had separate athletics departments for women and men, and women coached 90% of women's teams. In 1981, the NCAA first offered championships for women. In the mid-1980s each department was asked to designate a Primary Woman Administrator, to assure that women had a voice in college athletics, now called the Senior Woman Administrator (SWA).
Today women are ADs at 18% of colleges and universities, but fewer women are being hired in athletics. Fewer than half of women's teams have a female head coach, and women got only 10% of 438 new jobs created in schools' NCAA programs in 1998-2000.
What's an SWA?
According to the NCAA, an SWA is the highest-ranking female administrator involved in conducting a member institution's intercollegiate athletics program.
Interpretations of that statement vary by NCAA division, and even by conference. Some schools see nothing wrong with appointing a male to the role. Others say SWAs must have administrative duties, not just coaching status, while others suggest that a school with a female AD should have another woman as SWA. In Division II, a SWA is expected to be a member of the senior athletics management team.
Jan Brown, director of governance for the …