YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. - The "biggest story" for women's basketball [the past couple of weeks] may not be the NCAA Division I women's final four but, once again, the issue of hiring practices for women's coaches across the nation and, more disturbingly, the hiring practices in the best NCAA conference in the nation.
This time it's at the University of Arkansas, where Jimmy Dykes, former coach and ESPN analyst, has been named the Razorbacks' head coach. Coach Dykes has not coached in 21 years, has never been a head coach and has never coached on the women's side of the game. It is best to sum up this hire using Coach Dykes' own words to point out the obvious: "I promise to rely on help from my assistant coaches to help with the areas of the college game that I am not familiar with yet."
The University of Arkansas, a member of the prestigious Southeastern Conference, just hired a coach that must depend on his assistants to teach him the women's game. Huh? What message did the University of Arkansas just send to all the men and women who have dedicated their lives and careers to the game of women's basketball?
Mission statements across the nation from power conferences indicate that they promote the spirit of fairness, adhere to principles of integrity, support the total development of the student-athlete and produce enlightened leadership for tomorrow. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
I am sure that Coach Dykes is a wonderful person and a fantastic University of Arkansas alumnus, and by no means is this an attack on him personally. It is, however, an implication that the vice chancellor and director of athletics, Jeff Long, believes that a man who has not coached in 21 years is more capable than today's men and women who have committed their careers to women's basketball.
Once again I ask you: Where are the leaders in women's basketball today? Where are the USA Today commentaries and the ESPN breakdowns and analyses on this hire? The University of Connecticut women's coach simply called the hire "outside the box" and one that will closely be followed.
I call it a slap in the face to all in the profession. SOMEONE MUST SPEAK UP!
It is time to hold university administrators accountable for ignoring qualified coaches who have demonstrated a commitment to the female athlete and the game of women's basketball! It is time for an association to be formed that is dedicated to improving the employment opportunities for the men and women who coach women's basketball, who have always coached women's basketball and who are loyal and dedicated to coaching women's basketball.
Brenda Paul is the women's basketball coach at Young Harris (Ga.) College. She began her coaching career in 1978 at Tennessee Wesleyan and later coached at Berry, Mississippi State and Elon.