Author: Annie Butts, NACWAA
NACWAA members Julie Hermann and Heather Lyke are two of the 19 women who have advanced into intercollegiate athletics director, commissioner or NCAA vice president roles in 2013. Hermann is also NACWAA Immediate Past President.
College football games are certainly no rarity during the fall season, but what makes the September 14 matchup between the Rutgers Scarlett Knights and the EMU Eagles somewhat of an anomaly is that the two schools are in the 5% of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs that are led by female athletic directors.
There are 128 athletic departments in the country that are classified as NCAA Division I FBS; of those, seven are run by women.
The May 15, 2013 hiring of Julie Hermann as Rutgers’ athletic director marked the first time in nearly three years that a woman was appointed to the top spot at the DI FBS level (before Hermann, the last woman who was tabbed as AD at this level was Debbie Yow at North Carolina State University on June 25, 2010). Exactly two weeks after Hermann’s first day on the job, Heather Lyke was hired as athletic director at DI FBS Eastern Michigan University. Both Hermann and Lyke are the first women to hold the athletic director position at their respective institutions.
After less than three months in the Rutgers athletic director chair, Hermann is gearing up for her third Rutgers football matchup, a game that happens to be against an even newer female athletic director in Lyke. Hermann sees the game between the two women as “super fun and coincidental,” but notes that the trend of high-level female hiring is happening “now more than ever for a reason.”
“My theory is that Title IX is working on every level, including this level,” said Hermann. “We now have a generation of women who have played at a high level and have 20 plus years of administrative or coaching experience.” Over 40 years after Title IX was signed into law, Hermann explains, “we finally have a generation of women that have so much Division I NCAA sport experience that have been raised in that model, and so I think we’re starting to see that more women than ever are prepared for these opportunities.”
Perhaps there will be a season in the near future when football matchups between two female DI FBS athletic directors happen regularly. Until then, Hermann advises women to prepare themselves by getting thorough experience and great mentors: “You’ve got to virtually learn every part of the business and…you have to get great experience under great people, and then you have to go for it.”