Notre Dame head women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw gave an impassioned speech on women's equality at Thursday's Final Four news conference after she recently said she would not hire another male coach for her staff.
She was asked how serious she takes being a voice in the women's game, especially after the passing of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt who was longtime advocate for women. McGraw responded with a thorough two-minute answer.
"How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future?" McGraw said. "We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible women leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender roles are already set."
"Men run the world, men have the power, men make the decisions," she added. "It’s always the men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming up, who are they looking up to to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than sports? All these millions of girls who play sports across the country, they could come out every day, and we’re teaching them some great things about life skills. But wouldn’t it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead. This is a path for you to take, to get to the point where in this country, we have 50 percent of women in power. We have right now, less than 5% of women are CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. So yes, when you look at men’s basketball and 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99 percent of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women? Maybe it’s because we only have 10 percent women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people who look like them, and that’s the problem."
McGraw was the only female coach at last year's Women's Final Four. Jonathan Tsipis, who left in 2012 and now coaches at Wisconsin, was the last male assistant coach on McGraw’s staff. Mike Szemborski, the director of strength and conditioning, is the only male on the Notre Dame bench. According to a recent ThinkProgress article on McGraw, the percentage of female-led women’s college basketball programs had dropped to 59 percent in 2018 from 79 percent in 1977.
According to Washington Post reporter Ava Wallace, the first question McGraw was asked at the presser was, "I know you’re married, I know Geno is married... if you weren’t rivals could you have a normal relationship?" While the question sounds out of context, according to Wallace, it came after Baylor's Kim Mulkey was asked about the "animosity" between Geno Auriemma and McGraw at her press conference. Mulkey said, "We would all be best friends if we weren’t coaching. Hell, some of us maybe married to each other ... You have the same interests. (But) usually Type A personality coaches butt heads."
McGraw has won two national titles and eight Final Fours. McGraw's team will face Auriemma's No. 2 UConn on Friday in the Women's Final Four.