Former field hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum, seen at the University of Iowa’s Grant Field, won four Big Ten titles in 14 years. She says she was fired in retaliation for speaking out about the school’s lack of gender equity in women’s sports. Credit: John Richard for Reveal

Our latest investigation started with this simple stat: Before Title IX, 90 percent of collegiate women’s sports were coached by women. Almost immediately after Title IX went into effect, that number plummeted.

We wanted to know what was behind this decline, and why it shows no signs of budging.

It turns out, after Congress passed the landmark gender equity law in the 1970s, schools merged men’s and women’s athletics directors. They put men in charge. And those men hired other men.

We then wanted to get a sense of what is happening today. Men continue to run most athletics departments (90 percent of them). And men continue to get a majority of the coaching jobs in women’s sports (65 percent of the more than 2,000 new jobs created between 2000 and 2014).

We went to the University of Iowa to tell the story because it provided a contemporary look at many of the factors that coaches say were at play at most schools back when Title IX first passed.

Here’s what we found:

* Female coaches across the country say they continue to be retaliated against for speaking up about discrimination.

In the past decade, at least 29 female coaches and eight female sports administrators have filed retaliation lawsuits against their universities. These lawsuits follow a similar storyline. A woman witnesses some discrimination in the athletic department. She speaks up to a superior. Then she gets fired or receives a negative performance evaluation.

* Coaches who speak up say they often are accused of abusing their players.

Almost half of the coaches in these retaliation cases – 13 in all – claim they were accused of mistreating or verbally abusing their players. They see themselves as whistleblowers who complain to the administration on behalf of the women’s teams. Then, they get hit with abuse allegations, either as the primary reason for their firing or as the university’s defense during the lawsuit.

* The University of Iowa, once a safe haven for female coaches, has joined the rest of the pack when it comes to gender equity.

The Hawkeyes originally bucked the trend in the 1970s, when they, unlike nearly every other college, left a woman in charge of women’s sports. Iowa eventually did put a man in charge, and in the last decade, it has seen the percentage of women coaching women’s sports drop, seen men get paid more to replace women, and seen a successful head coach who was an outspoken advocate for equity get fired.

* Iowa paid new male coaches more than new female coaches.

When he replaced two female coaches with men, the athletic director paid those men 25 percent more than their female predecessors. For the three he replaced with other women, he paid those women 13 percent less, according to public salary data.

Check out how well your school is doing with gender equity in coaching here:


You can read the full story here and listen to our Reveal episode with this story and others on gender equity in sports. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

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Andrew Donohue can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @add.

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Andy Donohue was the executive editor for projects for Reveal. He edited Reveal’s investigations into the treatment of migrant children in government care, Amazon’s labor practices, rehab work camps and sexual abuse in the janitorial industry. He was on teams that have twice been Pulitzer Prize finalists and won Investigative Reporters and Editors, Edward R. Murrow, Online News Association, Third Coast International Audio Festival, Gerald Loeb, Sidney Hillman Foundation and Emmy awards. He previously helped build and lead Voice of San Diego, served on the IRE board for eight years and is an alumnus of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.