It's been nearly a month since the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics announced
that it was looking into the use of male practice players
. As the news has slowly spread around the country, more papers have picked up
the story, and more coaches have expressed opposition to any restrictions.
Some coaches have also expressed some frustration with the process. "I'm a little disappointed to tell you that from a membership of coaches' perspective, I don't think we're in the loop," said ODU coach Wendy Larry
, who is also president of the WBCA. "It hasn't been mandated yet, but if there's discussion, it's my hope that we'll still have an opportunity to voice an opinion."
If nothing else, coaches have been voicing their opinions in the press, and it appears that the committee is listening.
In some of the more recent articles, committee chair Darlene Bailey has attempted to clarify what has motivated the committee's study. "Those sports that are using male practice players on a consistent basis ... is that keeping female athletes from an opportunity to get better?" Bailey said
. "If a freshman or sophomore is not part of the top five or the first team in that sport, is she getting better standing on the sidelines?"
At least one coach agrees. "I have a problem with a bunch of kids standing on the sidelines when guys are out there on a regular basis," OSU coach Jim Foster said. "Given my druthers, as the skill level of the women's game improves, I would rather practice against us." (It should be noted, however, that Foster's feelings on the issue may be the result of a problem
he had at Vandy.)
This latest rationale makes more sense than some of those offered earlier
. If the use of male practice players results in bench players sitting on the sidelines too much during practice, maybe it's not a good idea. But I'm still not sure why the NCAA would need to step in and regulate the matter rather than just allowing each team to figure out what's best.
Any coach on a given team may have good reasons for deciding not to use male practice players. A coach may decide that she wants to give her bench more practice time, that she doesn't want her starters to face such tough competition
in practice, or that she just doesn't want to deal with the already existing regulations.
By the same token, if any individual player doesn't want to risk getting stuck on the sidelines for practice, she may want to choose a school that doesn't use male practice players. Players and parents concerned about the issue should make sure to ask questions during the recruiting process and choose schools accordingly.
In short, coaches, players, and teams can decide for themselves -- the free market works fine in this situation, and I don't see any sort of market failure
that requires centralized intervention. Perhaps male practice players aren't a good idea for every school, but there's no reason that the NCAA needs to impose a ban on everyone.
Darlene Bailey herself apparently agrees. "I'd like to see it left to each individual coach. Who knows a team better than its coach?" Exactly.