How not to celebrate Title IX at 50 — Rutgers heads to Big Ten Media Day — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, Oct. 12, 2022
When we last left our protagonist, Riverside City College women’s basketball coach (and playing legend) Alicia Berber, she was in the midst of her second lawsuit against RCC for Title IX violations. We detailed these here.
Regardless of the merits — and let’s be clear, Berber has the receipts, she already won a significant amount of money from RCC out of her first lawsuit, and continues to fight — it is easy to imagine that a minimally competent legal strategy from RCC would be to avoid even the appearance of uneven opportunity between the men’s and women’s programs within athletics.
Something like a long-planned Title IX celebration, for instance, could be utilized as a cover for the years of malign neglect and worse directed at Berber and her teams.
That’s… not the road RCC took.
Back in January, the planned event, due to COVID restrictions, was rescheduled for October 16, 2022 at Wheelock Gym, according to an email reviewed by The IX. Cheryl Miller would speak, there’d be a clinic for girls to play basketball with Ann Meyers Drysdale, it would have served as a fantastic catalyst for both interest in the women’s basketball program and a reminder that, for all its many faults, RCC still has an incredible women’s basketball legacy — thanks to Berber, who pushes on into the icy wind of treatment from her alma mater and current employer.
Then, in August, months after this event had been set and planning was well under way, men’s basketball coach Philip Matthews scheduled a scrimmage in Wheelock Gym for the same day, October 15. According to Berber, she brought this to his attention, but he declined to move the game. Berber raised this with Williams, who repeatedly declined to address the conflict with Berber, even at scheduled meetings specifically to discuss logistics for the Title IX event.
The IX reached out to Williams, and was told by Chris Clarke, a spokesperson for RCC, that he could not comment because of “pending litigation” — a neat trick! If you are constantly being sued for Title IX violations, you never have to answer for those violations publicly.
“While we generally appreciate the opportunities we have of interacting with reporters and the news media, the issue you have inquired about is related to pending litigation, so we have no comment,” Clarke said in an email.
It’s also not true, of course, any more than Donald Trump wasn’t “allowed” to release his tax returns because they were under audit. If Williams wanted to discuss the basics of what is scheduled at his school, as Athletic Director, there’s nothing stopping him. And if he’s unable or unwilling to do so, it’s fairly obvious he is rendered incapable of doing the very basics required of him in the job.
Finally, an administrator at nearby Ramona High School heard about these difficulties and proposed that the event be held there instead. It will be, on Saturday, and it looks spectacular.
This is not the first collaboration between the two institutions. Due to unsafe playing conditions on RCC’s Wheelock Field, the football team played its home games at Ramona High School this year, paying a fee to do so.
While Williams was unwilling to take basic steps to keep the event at RCC, he did, according to a source familiar with his action, proactively place a call to an administrator at Ramona High School to make sure RCC would be charged a fee for the Title IX event, just as it is for football. Yes, that is correct: proactively, Williams worked to try and cost his own department money. (Ramona, for the record, recognized the difference between football games and a Title IX celebration.)
On this front, and perhaps only on this front, it appears Payton Williams and RCC are dedicated to true equality.
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This week in women’s basketball
And I use this section for everything other than The Next, typically (see below on how and why you should join us there for over 100 reported pieces on women’s basketball every MONTH), but I must shout out Jenn Hatfield’s story on Kayla Padilla of Penn.
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Five at The IX: Rutgers head coach Coquese Washington at Big Ten Media Day
Am I going to devote most of my next few months to watching the Big Ten? You bet.
KEVIN WARREN: Our next coach to the stage has a great history and tradition with the Big Ten, formerly coaches at Penn State University. She’s passionate about Play for Kay, which has helped raise funds for women who are battling cancer. A great player. A great coach. We are so excited to have Coquese Washington as the head basketball coach at Rutgers University. I know she’s going to do great things. It’s good to have her back in the Big Ten family.
Welcome to the stage Coach Washington from Rutgers University.
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Good morning. Thanks for such a wonderful turnout this morning for Big Ten Media Day. I’m really excited and thrilled to be back in the Big Ten. Looking forward to the competition in our conference and really being a part of the premier athletic conference in the country.
We’ve got tremendous leadership with Kevin Warren and the rest of the Big Ten staff as well as the campus leadership across the conference. It’s really exciting to be back in the conference. Looking forward to big things in the conference.
So I’ll take your questions now.
Q. At least one time this season there will be a Big Ten game with two head coaches on either side that’s black. Are we coming closer to that being a rule, not an exception, in your opinion?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: That’s a great question.
I think it will be exciting when that happens. But obviously I think there’s still a lot of room for growth when you look at the numbers in terms of diversity, in terms of people of color leading programs, especially in the Power Five conferences.
We certainly have had some movement in the last couple years. We’ve had some good hires. There’s still a lot of work to be done in that area. It’s up to our administrations to cast a broad and wide net when they have hiring opportunities to ensure that our head coaching ranks are reflective of what our players look like and where they’re from and the diversity with that respect.
I think we’ve done well, but there’s still room for growth and opportunity there.
Q. You’re taking over for an icon. What will a Coquese Washington Rutgers team look like?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, I think one thing that I always admired and respected about Coach Stringer was as much what she did off the court as she did on the court, how she cared for her players, how she challenged and nurtured and grew her players.
A Rutgers women’s basketball team will still be reflective of that even though there’s been a change of leadership.
Our style of play may be a little bit different.
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Coach Stringer was known for great defense and low-scoring games. I kind of like to score a few more points, so the pace may be a little bit different (smiling). The styles may be a little bit different.
But I think the thing that will remain constant and consistent is the pursuit of excellence, the pursuit of championships, and loving and caring and nurturing our players off the court in a way that’s authentic and truly a positive representation of Rutgers athletics and Rutgers University.
Q. You just alluded to it a little bit about the game plan. At Rutgers, there’s a pedigree of winning, as you well know. You know this league quite well. When you think about how you differentiate, how you find the separation of Rutgers women’s basketball to then end up with the results that you want, what does that entail?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, it’s not really so much about trying to differentiate ourselves or looking and comparing ourselves to what Maryland is doing or Nebraska or even Minnesota. It’s really about establishing our culture, who we are, how we play. Those things are where we talk with our team right now.
We’re in discovery mode, right? We’re discovering who we are. Actually, as a staff and as a program, we’ve all been together since September with 1, a little over a month. So we’re still in discovery mode.
It’s about laying the foundation of who we want to be. Our style of play, we like to play fast, we like to get up and down the court. That’s obviously where the game is going.
As we work to establish our identity and set ourselves up for long-term sustained success, it’s not about winning a few games this year but it’s about being a program that’s going to be a stalwart in the Big Ten Conference. That’s going to take some time and dedication to laying and building a strong foundation.
Q. Having been in the Big Ten, the fact that you really had to rebuild this thing from down deep, how helpful has it been to have that Big Ten experience? You put together quite a coaching staff in its own right. Talk about your hires a little bit.
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Yeah, definitely think the experience that I have previously of coaching in this conference is going to be helpful. When you know how Brenda Frese likes to coach, Kevin McGuff at Ohio State likes to coach, Teri Moren, how she likes to coach, that’s certainly helpful. It definitely will give us an opportunity to understand the conference better.
Again, it goes back to us being able to put together a team, put together a program, and build and create a foundation this year that’s going to allow and provide for long-term success in this conference.
The talent base in this conference is really deep. When you look at the number of players that were drafted this past year in the WNBA, when you look at the players that are coming in that have such a high buzz nationally coming back, it’s a very competitive conference. That competitive nature is what’s going to make our program better and what’s going to make our conference strong as we head into NCAA play in March.
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