Watching the Jamie Farr Classic wrap up a couple of weeks ago, I thought back to how a great month started when I gathered with a few friends and my daughters to follow Faith Egli on the front nine at Sylvania Country Club in a qualifying round. As we followed Faith on the gorgeous rolling hills, my thoughts were on how great it is that my young girls have such great female athletic role models in Tiffin.
Faith, the head professional at Mohawk Golf and Country Club, will also serve as the head coach for Heidelberg's women's golf team this year. She was named to the first LPGA Top 50 Golf Instructors in America list and also holds a lifetime achievement award from the PGA of America.
Heidelberg also has a former WNBA player on their coaching staff - Marcie Alberts who played five games as a guard for the Cleveland Rockers in 1997 after a four-year career at Ohio State University.
Tiffin University has a pair of professional players on staff as well. Serving as assistant softball coaches, DeAnn Justice and Jessica Sallinger both compete for the Philadelphia Force in the National Pro Fastpitch League.
Sallinger was named to the 2008 All-Star team along with former teammate Jennie Finch, who still pitches for the Chicago Bandits. Justice (no relation to Dave) homered off Finch this season and is rated among the leagues top hitters in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. The Force and Bandits will be at Firestone Stadium in Akron in a few weeks for league championship play.
There are many great role models serving as head coaches for the women's athletic teams at the two colleges in Tiffin, but only a few are female which is not uncommon in the industry. Both Heidelberg and Tiffin University offer sporting opportunities for women in basketball, softball, golf, tennis, track and field, cross country, volleyball and soccer. Tiffin also offers women's lacrosse and equestrian. Among the 18 women's sport teams at the two universities, only five have a female head coach which is far below the current national average of 43 percent.
Among the athletic administrators at TU and 'Berg, there are zero females in either program. Eight to 9 percent of the NCAA athletic programs around the country have at least one female administrator. Our two institutions are among the 11 percent in America without a female voice in the decision making ranks. On a positive note, TU's head athletic trainer is a female, and a fabulous addition to the athletics staff.
Diversity in hiring is absolutely a leadership issue. The leadership at Tiffin University has taken the initiative to create a structure and culture to impact diversity challenges such as those which exist in athletics. President Paul Marion announced the appointment of a director of institutional diversity with responsibilities to coordinate efforts to continue to enroll a diverse student body and to increase the diversity of faculty and staff hires. Heightened awareness and accountability should guide proactive, patient and even creative searches that target as many diverse labor sources as possible.
The caveat is always that the best person is selected to fill a vacancy, but with conscientious emphasis to improve the diversity of the applicant pool, the potential outcome will be an increase in the probability that a qualified female is appointed to fill an opening in a women's sports program. One creative option available through the NCAA is the Strategic Alliance Matching Grant Enhancement program which assists selected universities in partially financing female and minority hires.
Regardless of the strategies, the hopeful by-product will be an increase in the number and percentage of females serving as head coaches and administrators at our two universities.
The high school ranks are plagued with the same challenges as colleges in terms of gender representation in athletic leadership positions. Columbian High School's recent athletic director (AD) vacancy was considered by at least one qualified female who submitted her resume and another strong female candidate was among the three finalists for the AD position opening at Calvert. I suspect there have been very few (if any) females ever considered so highly for an AD position at either high school.
Also on the hot topic list for July is a growing concern that 2009 will be the swan song for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic since a new contract isn't in place for 2010 and the major sponsor has laid off more than 3,500 employees since January. Negotiating a new media and sponsorship agreement should be a priority for the LPGA's interim commissioner who takes over after the resignation of Carolyn Bivens. Biven's timely resignation came a few days after a number of high-profile professionals reportedly met in Toledo during the Jamie Farr to unify a stance against a controversial figure who was at the helm for less than a year. Her replacement, however, was also ousted from a high profile position as the president and CEO of the American Red Cross because of her "command and control" management style!
Regardless of the commissioner saga, the LPGA's potential loss of another major tournament validates an increasing trend that lends credibility to the tumultuous economy that has adversely affected all professional sports in some way or another. Hopefully, new lifeblood can help position the LPGA to contract the necessary sponsorship and media ties to retain the major tournament with 25 years of rich tradition in Toledo.
Finally, in other sport news, Michael Phelps has been busting the water waves by setting a world record in the 100-meter butterfly which springboards him into the World Championships in Rome, Italy, this month. The Olympic swimming world met with sudden tragedy on the same day as Phelps latest record-breaking swim when the USOC announced the death of Paralympic coach Jimi Flowers who fell more than 1,000 feet from a ledge in a mountain climbing accident near Aspen, Colo. Flowers had directed the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and coached seven disabled swimmers who competed in Beijing last summer.
Tiffin resident Peggy Ewald, part of the US Paralympic Coaching staff, will play an integral role in filling a void and training world class athletes as the swimming world comes to grips with the shocking news of Fowler's death. Ewald is yet another one of those few, but great, female athletic role models Tiffin can be proud of having in our community.
Stay tuned for more interesting sports news in August highlighting recent efforts by national organizations to end two-a-day football practices. Yes, football time is almost here and in Tiffin, Ohio, that is welcome news to many sport fans!
Bonnie Tiell is Tiffin University's faculty representative to the NCAA