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Coaches Voice Concerns

Some make sexual orientation an issue during recruiting trips

(This story was published in 2005).

By: Seth Fast Glass (Daily Bruin Senior Staff)

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA

While the recruiting process has changed over time, the lengths to which coaches will go to entice recruits has not.

Years ago, the perception existed that college coaches lured prized high school recruits with material gifts and financial benefits.

The NCAA hammered down on such violations by creating much stricter recruiting laws designed to limit the contact between coaches and recruits.

Today, the concern of what a coach can offer a recruit is rivaled by the unease of what a coach can tell a recruit.

Never having dealt with it personally, UCLA women's basketball coach Kathy Olivier has heard in her sport's circles that coaches have outed other competing coaches as lesbian in order to obtain an edge in landing a recruit's services.

"I've had people talk to me about that, and I've heard that it has happened," Olivier said.

"If some coaches think that's going to make them look better in a recruit's eyes, I think they'll do anything they can, and I don't think that's a good place to be."

How effective such a strategy is able to persuade a recruit one way or the other is uncertain. Yet Ronni Sanlo, director of UCLA's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, has heard that coaches who adopt the approach of capitalizing on another coach's sexual orientation have been relatively successful.

"I was talking to a women's basketball coach at another university and she said that it's very common for recruiting to be affected if a lesbian coach is open about her sexuality," Sanlo said. "As a result, (the competing coaches) get the recruit because some parents do not want their kids playing for a lesbian coach."

Since there has been a trend of parents exerting a greater influence in determining where their child goes to college, coaches must not only sell their prospective recruit of the team's potential, but the recruit's parents of the team's atmosphere.

As a result, according to Jay Coakley, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, coaches are flaunting their moral values to female athletes' fathers in order to get a leg up on the competition. The subtle strategy of catering to a father's likelier trust of male coaches in female sports, Coakley says, has attributed to the success of Connecticut's women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

"If you look at most women's athletes, the person who has become their agent is their father," Coakley said. "When it comes time to look for schools, it is their father who is most involved.

"Some coaches make it very subtle. There's never any explicit mention of sexuality. It's always something about the wholesome climate or religious beliefs."

Olivier believes that coaches who out other coaches and players are not doing so out of ill-will. In women's basketball, a sport that has garnered increasing media coverage and fan popularity over recent years, Olivier feels the coaches who already have established that competitive edge have both eyes fixated on the expanding financial possibilities in their sport, and will protect their position at all costs.

"I think it comes up because of the business, it's huge paying jobs now, you're making big money and I think coaches resort to anything to get a player," Olivier said. "Without the horses, you're not going to be very good."

With reports from Adam de Jong, Jeff Eisenberg, and Bryan Chu, Bruin sports senior staff.