Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another female coach terminated: University of Delaware

In the wake of similar stories out of Duluth, Iowa, and Tufts, we note that another female coach has been terminated this year, this time by the University of Delaware. 

Softball coach Jaime Wohlbach was reportedly fired abruptly on Monday afternoon, in the middle of her season.  According to Wolhbach,  she was told at the time that she "ran a hostile environment" for her players, which she disputes and points out that she had not received any indication from her supervisor that players had complained or were unhappy.

Considering public comments Wohlbach has since made, it appears that an alternative possible explanation for her termination is that it is the culmination of an ongoing conflict with her supervisor, associate athletic director Joe Shirley, whom Wolhbach accuses of micromanaging her team and giving her an unwarranted poor performance evaluation. Given that Wohlbach apparently reported him to human resources for "bullying," it seems possible that her termination is retaliation for her complaint.  

It remains to be seen whether Wohlbach will take any legal action invoking Title IX. It is certainly possible that the "bullying" she complained of targeted her because she is a woman and/or because she coaches a woman's team.  Additionally, if the university had actually received complaints about the coach's "hostility" towards her players, the fact that its response to those complaints was to immediately terminate the coach could reflect a sexist double standard, if it is the case that Delaware would have permit male coaches with more leeway in that situation, such as an opportunity to address or explain the complaints.

The Title IX angle is speculation on my part.  But since we have seen other examples of similar bias against women coaches, including the very recent examples noted above, it is not far fetched to consider the possibility of sexism underlying this case as well.