By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
College football history was made Saturday when a woman coached in Arkansas State University's spring game (albeit in a limited capacity). Angie Gallaher, a Imboden, Arkansas resident and a booster of the Red Wolves, won the program's "Coach Experience" auction and had the opportunity to coach for the team's annual spring game.
"We are excited to have the first female FBS head coach in the nation, which will give us a pretty unique twist to our spring game, and we can't wait to get her more involved," Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson said in a statement Monday. "Angie is a big-time supporter of our program and a huge fan, so it will be a lot of fun for our staff, players and fans to have someone so familiar with our team taking on this role."
Gallaher went into the spring game Saturday with positivity and an open mind.
"I love Red Wolves football, so this is an awesome opportunity after having followed the team and coaches for so long," she said. "I go to practices, have been to Mobile the last three years (for the GoDaddy Bowl) and I get more into it every year, so I thought why not take another step and be coach for the day. I think this is a great thing A-State is doing. It will certainly be a learning experience, and I'm looking forward to it."
Despite this incredible milestone, this will not open the floodgates for women who desire staff positions on college football and NFL teams. There are still a number of obstacles that stand in the way.
First, there are simply not enough opportunities for women to gain experience. There are a limited number of paid positions on a high school football team's staff (at which most of college and NFL coaches start) and women usually do not have the playing experience nor the coaching experience that is preferred for these positions. Without any experience, it is hard for these women to land coaching jobs.
Next, head coaches tend to hire coaches with whom they have worked previously. It's a talent pool that doesn't include very many, if any, women. It's hard for coaches to hire someone they don't know very well, and it's harder still for them to take a chance on a female coach when there is really no precedent for it in the sport.
So female coaches suffer from lack of coaching opportunity, and head coaches won't hire them due to that lack of experience. This vicious cycle persists in sports, while males have taken prominent roles in women's sports programs for decades.
How can this be fixed?
The biggest thing female coaches need is opportunities to coach men. Since few opportunities exist and finding competent coaches is often very difficult, the best way for women to prove themselves is to act as volunteer coaches, since most coaches wouldn't turn away free help. This way, they can show that they are knowledgeable about the game and can demonstrate a track record of developing players, which will make them attractive hires for programs.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
It may be a while longer until we have our next Angie Gallaher, but the sport will be ready and waiting.