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Volume 23 No. 13
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Have times passed the SWA title by?

The job title of senior woman administrator has been around college athletic departments since the 1980s, but some female leaders wonder if the designation is still necessary.

When the NCAA came up with the SWA role, it was intended to designate the highest-ranking woman in the athletic department as a way to provide more opportunities for women in the male-dominated profession. But as women have taken on more prominent roles in greater numbers, the SWA position has perhaps outlived its usefulness.

“That title served the athletic department well when it was initiated, but now it’s always misconstrued,” said Patti Phillips, CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports, formerly known as the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators. “It’s supposed to be the highest-ranking woman, but a lot of times people think it’s the person who’s over women’s sports, which can create a stigma for someone trying to become an athletic director.”

Phillips indicated that the NCAA is exploring whether the SWA designation will continue.

Debbie Yow, the AD at N.C. State, said she purposely avoided the SWA title as she moved through the ranks because she worried about being stereotyped an administrator for only women’s sports. But Sandy Barbour, the AD at Penn State, was SWA at multiple schools.

“Do we still need it? That’s up for debate,” Phillips said.