Julie Soriero has served as Colorado College’s athletic director since February 2004. As interim AD, she was instrumental in enabling the men’s hockey and women’s soccer programs to maintain their Division I status.
She also hired women’s soccer coach Geoff Bennett, who is 16-13-5 in two seasons. She’s the first female AD in school history. Question: Why is National Girls and Women in Sports Day important? Answer: “It recognizes the sports as they exist now. But it also gives colleges an opportunity to promote that particular event and really reach out to the community and young girls to hopefully pique their interest in what’s going on in college athletics and athletics in general. “The continued success of women’s athletics is at the grass-roots level. We need to have that next generation, or even the generation beyond that, come forth and continue to have that interest and that competitiveness.” Q: Will men’s and women’s sports ever be viewed as equally important in the public’s eye? A: “In a perfect world, it would be wonderful to have those opportunities be what they are. Unfortunately, when you look in a lot of the communities, the youth programs aren’t the same for girls as they are for boys. There are many more opportunities for boys historically, therefore that tradition and legacy continues. “For women, it’s a young tradition. It has just started.” Q: Do youth girls who want to participate in sports have more opportunities today than they did in the past? A: “I think there are more opportunities. College sports have developed different programs. It’s not just your typical softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer. You’re seeing a growing interest in rowing, a growing interest in equestrian and a growing interest and higher participation numbers in some of the individual sports — tennis and track and field. The participation numbers are going up for those already-established sports. But you’re also seeing some of these new, emerging sports really generate a lot of interest.” Q: Why are some women’s sports, such as basketball, softball and soccer, so popular at the high school level? A: “I don’t want to say they’re the easiest. But all schools have a gym. All schools have a field. If your school is in a high school league, your men are playing it and your women are playing it. “To start an emerging sport — some of the high schools around here are starting girls lacrosse — that becomes a little bit more challenging because there’s not that built-in competition there and those built-in opportunities.” Q: Has Title IX been effective? A: “I think it has. I won’t say across the board it has been effective. It certainly has raised people’s awareness and expectations, therefore there have been improvements and there have been many, many women and student-athletes and parents who have fought battles that needed to be fought to improve things. In that way, it becomes effective for those people who benefited from it. Behind the scenes, yes (it has been effective). “But if you look at some of the numbers that are out there, people could readily say no, which probably means the public perception needs to change, and that’s the responsibility of educational institutions, both at the college level and at the high school level.” Q: Recent changes to Title IX allow schools to drop women’s athletics programs if e-mail surveys distributed to the student body reveal there is not adequate interest in the programs. What are your thoughts on those changes? A: “What the Bush administration is saying now is you can do an online survey of your students and take those results to determine whether you need to add programs or change anything. It’s not really that measurable in terms of the number of people that respond to online surveys. It doesn’t really survey incoming people and people that have graduated. If you really wanted to do a survey, you would do it consistently and it would be much longer and more involved than pressing a button that says send.” Q: How has CC been affected by Title IX? A: “A couple of years ago, we added women’s water polo. We needed to get our women’s participation numbers up. We made a commitment to women’s softball to get those numbers up, so we moved to a full-time coach and we moved the field. We worked with the Colorado Springs Department of Recreation to move our field from way out near the World Arena to much closer to campus. We added (junior varsity) volleyball. We had a tremendous amount of interest in volleyball, so we were able to support that program.” Q: Is CC in compliance with Title IX? A: “My first reaction is to say yes. Do our participation numbers match exactly? No. (The percentage of athletes who are female must be within five points of the student body’s female percentage). But I think we’ve been able to demonstrate some of the other things that we’ve done, which is also one of the tests in terms of history of improvement and growth. I would certainly stand that up to anybody. “For us, it becomes a real commitment because we’re not in a conference where we can just automatically add another program. It’s an economical commitment as well as a philosophical commitment. I’m proud to say that we’ve done it and have done it successfully the past few years.” Q: Why are there more male athletic directors than female athletic directors at the college level? A: “For women’s athletics programs, it’s all pretty new. “The women who have lived through the changes are now starting to get those opportunities. You’re going to have women who are interested in these jobs with different experience, whether that’s being a student-athlete and being an intern in marketing or some of the opportunities through the NCAA office with women and minority internship grants. I think you’re going to see that dynamic start to shift. “You don’t want it to become a good-ol’-boy or good-ol’-girl network. You want to hope that the hiring decisions are done fairly and for the skill set a particular institution needs.” Q: According to a report released last week by Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, there are five white women running athletic departments that have Division I-A football programs. Why are there not more women overseeing Division I-A football programs? A: “A lot of people think, ‘You’re a woman, and you didn’t play football, so you don’t understand.’ Well, that’s true. As a woman AD, I also didn’t play volleyball and I didn’t run track, but there don’t seem to be issues with that. A lot of what fuels the finances of a lot of institutions is football, therefore there’s a comfort level with a ‘football guy’ in charge. Right or wrong, that tends to be how it exists. You’re starting to see that dynamic change. But to a certain extent, that’s still out there.” Q: How difficult was it for you to land your current job as CC’s athletic director? A: “I was named the interim not once but twice, therefore I had an opportunity to either fail or succeed. It was almost like I had a tryout, then I was elected captain of the team. It was easy because I had the confidence of President (Richard) Celeste when he named me the interim the last time. It was hard, though, because I had some challenges on my plate. If we had not been successful (in preserving the Division I status of the men’s hockey and women’s soccer programs), then I probably would not have been in this position. There was a lot of pressure during that particular time to make sure all those needs were addressed and still run the department on an interim basis.” Q: What’s the state of CC’s women’s athletics program? A: “Women’s lacrosse last year went to the Final Four. Women’s soccer has had a nice resurgence with a young team and at one point in the season was ranked No. 25. “For most of our teams, our participation numbers are solid and our coaches have been very stable in terms of their longevity. I think that’s beneficial. Our women’s basketball team is off to one of the best records (10-8) they’ve had probably in the last 10 years. Track and cross country always have been successful. For volleyball, seven years in a row of going to the NCAA Tournament. “Those things coming to the top of my head as our most recent successes, I would say there’s a good, solid foundation.” Q: Has CC considered adding a women’s hockey program? A: “There are so many factors entering into it. Hockey is a very, very expensive sport. I don’t care which gender is playing, when you look at the equipment, the travel costs, the ice time. If you just were to say, ‘OK, we’re going to add (women’s) hockey.’ Can you reasonably add it at the Division III level? Or because of gender equity, would it be looked upon in a better context if we were to put ice hockey for our women in a directly comparable situation to the men? “Our women’s soccer program has so much history and so much success. I can’t imagine us supporting two Division I women’s programs and only one Division I men’s program. As it exists now, with what we’re accomplishing in women’s soccer and (men’s) ice hockey and the fact that we give women hockey players an outlet with a very successful and very competitive club program, I don’t see in the foreseeable future that becoming a varsity sport here.” COMPILED BY BRIAN GOMEZ, THE GAZETTE