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Up in Smoke?
GEORGE DOHRMANN
April 23, 2012
Bobby Petrino's reckless rule got him canned—and potentially caused a world of trouble for women working in sports
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April 23, 2012

Up In Smoke?

Bobby Petrino's reckless rule got him canned—and potentially caused a world of trouble for women working in sports

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A Cal graduate, Harder has interviewed for nearly a dozen football operation positions in the past 16 months. But she can count on one hand the women she knows of who are currently employed as recruiting coordinators at major football programs. Not hostesses, not administrative assistants, but coordinators with substantive responsibilities. "Women [aren't hired as] assistant coaches, so logistical positions are the only good jobs available to us," she says. "And most of them still go to men."

Harder says that she forgoes dresses and heels in the workplace so as to not be viewed as "a distraction." She doesn't work out in a school's weight room when football players and coaches are present. And she limits her social interactions with players and staff members so that no one can accuse her of inappropriate contact. "You do everything you can to be taken seriously," she says.

It is a challenge, Harder adds, that because of Jessica Dorrell just got a lot harder: "She has unintentionally set all women who work or want to work in college football back for who knows how long."

At a coaches' convention in January, Harder met an assistant from an SEC school. She kept in touch, networking, and got him to schedule a dinner meeting. Before the dinner occurred, Petrino's affair became public.

"[The coach], who is married, called and said he no longer felt comfortable meeting. He didn't want the dinner to be misconstrued," says Harder. "Dinners, drinks, talks at conventions—these are how connections are made. How will I get my foot in the door at another program now?"

She may not. It is not unthinkable that Bobby Petrino will get another chance in football before Harder or another woman sees an opportunity like the one Dorrell wasted. It is a disheartening thought, particularly two months away from the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. At a time when we should be celebrating progress, another thick pane has been added to football's glass ceiling.

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