UW's Tia Jackson Part of an Elite Group of Coaching Changes

April 27, 2007

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -New Penn State coach Coquese Washington hopes she has a streak going.

It has nothing to do with wins, Big Ten titles or NCAA tournament appearances.

With her selection Monday, four black women have been chosen to fill head coaching jobs this year in Division I women's college basketball, or more than 20 percent of the roughly 18 openings, according to the Black Coaches Association.

The other three are Pam DeCosta at San Jose State, Joi Williams Felton at Central Florida and Tia Jackson at Washington.

The numbers might not seem like a lot until you consider that black women held just 9 percent of the Division I head coaching jobs in women's basketball in 2005-06 - while nearly half the players in Division I are black, according to a study by Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.

Asked if she saw herself as a trend setter, Washington told a news conference she hoped her appointment shows that 'if you are prepared, if you have the credentials, opportunities will come your way.'

It's been a watershed period for minorities in coaching, with Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears becoming the first black head coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer guided Rutgers to the NCAA women's Final Four this year, the Scarlet Knights' second trip in her 12-year tenure at the school. She also went to the Final Four with Cheyney State in 1982 and Iowa in 1993.

Washington, a former assistant at Notre Dame, and fellow new coach Jackson both took part two years ago in a Black Coaches Association program designed to recruit and develop minority coaches.

The two are friends dating back to when Washington hosted Jackson on a high school recruiting visit. Jackson ended up attending Iowa, where she played for Stringer.

Jackson said she expects minority representation in the head-coaching ranks to swell soon. She was hired by the Huskies earlier this month after apprenticeships at Virginia Commonwealth, Stanford, UCLA and Duke.

'I don't see it as people of color or women of color. We are individuals who have made our mark and walked the path that leads us in this direction,' she said.

It's been a year of upheaval in the coaching ranks, leading to numerous openings.

'It just so happens to be, in this particular year, that a lot of us are able to sweep people off their feet,' Jackson said.

At Penn State, Washington follows Rene Portland, who resigned last month. Her otherwise successful 27-year tenure as head coach was marred by allegations that she discriminated against homosexuals. Portland and the university in March settled a lawsuit by a former player who charged that Portland had a 'no-lesbian' policy.

Before handing Washington a No. 1 Lady Lions jersey, athletic director Tim Curley described her as 'a wonderful person with great character and values which match the mission of our university and athletic department.'

Washington became the first black woman to be a varsity head coach at Penn State. She's also the only current black head coach among the school's varsity sports.

BCA executive director Floyd Keith is cautiously optimistic about the coaching landscape, preferring to wait to see how other vacancies elsewhere are handled before declaring progress is being made.

'I can't say until we see where it ends, but it certainly is starting,' he said.

Black men hold about a quarter of the head coaching jobs in Division I men's basketball. But men also coach women's teams, so black women pursuing women's head coaching jobs face more competition than men applying for men's basketball jobs.

'They deal on two fronts - race and gender. It's one of the very few categories where men can coach their jobs,' Keith said. 'The competition is critical.'

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On the Net:

Black Coaches Association: http://www.bcasports.org/

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