Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 11/12, December 2005 (
Systemic Barriers in Athletic Administration: An Analysis
of Job Descriptions for Interscholastic Athletic Directors
and Paul M. Pedersen
The purpose of this study was to determine if the job descriptions for interscholastic ath-
letic directors (AD) used by school districts contained some form of gender bias that might
deny women the opportunity to compete for those positions. Job descriptions were collected
from 112 school districts within the state of Texas. A content analysis of each job description
showed that 17% of the job descriptions listed as a qualiﬁcation that the AD also serve as the
head football coach (HFC). The link between the AD position and the HFC suggests that
those districts may be engaging in an unfair employment practice because the courts have
determined that such a requirement fails to meet the standard as a bona ﬁde occupational
requirement. In addition to the analysis of this possible systemic barrier for women in inter-
scholastic athletics, suggestions are offered for further research to explore the root causes of
the disparity between the number of men and women who serve as athletic directors.
KEY WORDS: job descriptions; interscholastic; athletics.
Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, the num-
ber of girls who participate in interscholastic athlet-
ics has risen dramatically from fewer than 300,000 to
over 2.8 million (National Federation of State High
School Associations, 2004). Over the past 30 years,
the percentage of high school girls who participate in
sports has risen from 1% in 1972 to 10%. Over these
three decades, the number of boys who participate
in sports has also increased from 3.7 million (13%
of high school boys enrolled in the public school sys-
tem) to approximately 4 million (14% of high school
boys). Therefore, in comparison to boys and to pre-
Title IX ﬁgures, the number of girls who participate
in high school sports has grown nearly 10-fold. The
same success seen by girls in high school sports has
not been translated into expanded opportunities for
Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, School of Education,
University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Exercise and Sport Sciences, School of Education, University
of Miami, P.O. Box 248065, Coral Gables, Florida 33124-2040;
women who wish to pursue careers in high school
athletics (Whisenant, 2003).
As with the condition at the collegiate level that
has been well documented through the longitudinal
research of Acosta and Carpenter (2004), the jobs in
coaching and athletic administration in interscholas-
tic athletics that have been created by the growth
of girls’ sports have typically gone to men. Stud-
ies have shown that the same scenario (e.g., more
men than women coach girls’ sports) exists in many
states across the United States (Sisley & Capel, 1986;
Stahura & Greenwood, 2002). The lack of represen-
tation of women in the ﬁrst level of sports leadership
(e.g., coaches) in interscholastic athletics is magniﬁed
at the athletic director level. Whisenant (2003) ana-
lyzed the breakdown according to the sex of inter-
scholastic athletic directors across the United States
and found that women held only 14% of the athletic
director positions. Furthermore, the lack of diversity
was not bound by geographic lines as women were
underrepresented in all regions of the country.
In Texas, where over 20% of the children in
the public school system participate in interscholastic
athletics (National Center for Education Statistics,
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.