Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Challenges abound for new Xavier AD

Rogers 1 of only 5 female athletic
directors in major colleges

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Forget about Title IX. Major-college sports is a man's game controlled by good ol' boys - or so goes the perception when it comes to running college athletics. From a numbers standpoint, the notion holds true.

Dawn Rogers
Women are scarcely found within the deal-making, policy-forming network of men who direct big-time athletic programs. Dawn Rogers became just the fifth female athletic director in the upper echelon of college sports when Xavier promoted her to fill its vacancy Friday.

She is the new face of Xavier athletics at the predominantly male bargaining table where power plays are made in men's and women's basketball scheduling, television appearances, corporate sponsorship and hiring. For a 39-year-old - not to mention female - first-time athletic director, the opportunity is enormous for Rogers. But she also faces back-channel criticism that might tie in her gender with her ability to do her job.

"You prove people wrong in the long run," said Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, the only female athletic director in one of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. "She's got a huge challenge in front of her, and she's going to have to deliver."

A select few
Female athletic directors by conference:
Conference Female ADs Total schools
1. Atlantic Coast 1 9
2. Southeastern 0 12
3. Big East 0 14
4. Big 12 0 12
5. Conf. USA 2 15
6. Big Ten 0 11
7. Mountain West 0 8
8. Atlantic 10 1 12
9. Pacific-10 0 10
10. Western Ath. 1 10
Total 5 113
(Conference ranking based on 2004 ratings percentage index according to
Yow was subject to gender bias and called a "skirt" by some boosters, according to published newspaper accounts during her first years after taking the Maryland job in 1994. During her tenure, Yow has overseen nine NCAA championships at Maryland, including the 2002 men's basketball national title. U.S. News and World Report cited Maryland as one of the top 20 athletic programs in the nation, and fund-raising has increased by more than 240 percent under Yow. Female athletic directors can't dwell on insults, she says.

"Women have a tendency to worry about being perfect," Yow said. "When you're in a non-traditional role, you think you have to do better than a man. The reality is, you're going to make mistakes."

Historically, women led women's sports at colleges and men handled the men's sports until 1981 when the NCAA began hosting women's championships. Since then, athletic departments have become united under a single (usually male) AD.

Rogers is one of five female athletic directors working within the top 10 conferences - a total of 113 schools - defined by the ratings percentage index in 2004. The others: Yow at Maryland, Judy Rose at Charlotte, Judy MacLeod at Tulsa and Jean Lenti Ponsetto at DePaul.

"I appreciate the willingness on the part of Xavier to look at the person Fr. (Michael) Graham thought would best lead the department," Rogers said. "I don't think every college or university is willing to do that."

Rogers expects to hear criticism, but she counters by pointing out that she worked side by side with her predecessor, Mike Bobinski, for 10 years and serves on two national NCAA committees, essential networking arenas.

"There are always going to be detractors," Rogers said. "The perception is there's an old-boys' network, and it's hard for women to crack it and make the necessary phone calls and be in that inner circle to make key decisions. There are a lot of people who want to help you and give you advice. I need to be willing to pick up the phone and call them, and I have no problem doing that."

Financial crises in athletic departments during the last 10 years eradicated some of the "old-boys' network," in which only football or men's basketball coaches moved on to become athletic directors. Nowadays, college presidents also are turning to business and community-relations experts to lead athletic programs.

"Dawn has obviously proven herself at Xavier," said Charlotte's Rose, who had lunch with Rogers this week at the Atlantic 10 meetings.

Said DePaul's Lenti Ponsetto: "There is greater scrutiny in this business for women. Often there's a perception that we would have a difficult time managing male coaches. It's impressive when institutions make the bold move that Xavier made."


The Fab Five
There are five female athletic directors in the top 10 major collegiate conferences, which comprise 113 schools.
AD School Conference Years
Debbie Yow Maryland Atlantic Coast Conference 10
Jean Lenti Ponsetto DePaul Conference USA (Big East in 2005) 2
Judy MacLeod Tulsa Western Athletic Conference 7
Judy Rose Charlotte Conference USA (A-10 in 2005) 14
Dawn Rogers Xavier Atlantic 10 1st year

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