Blog Archives

Bethany College offers scholarship to free safety Antoinette Harris

by Adam Rittenberg


Image source: ESPN, Twitter

Antoinette “Toni” Harris wants to be the first woman to play in the NFL. On Wednesday, she moved a step closer to her goal when she received a scholarship offer from Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas.

Harris, who plays free safety for East Los Angeles College in California, will become one of the first female non-kickers on a college football roster — and may be the first to receive a scholarship offer. In 2014, cornerback Shelby Osborne signed with Campbellsville University in Kentucky, an NAIA school, but it’s unknown if she received a scholarship.

Last April, Becca Longo, a kicker from Arizona, became the first woman to sign a letter of intent to play college football at the Division II level or higher. Longo is a freshman at Division II Adams State in Colorado, where she is playing for both the football and women’s basketball teams.

Harris tweeted about the offer Wednesday night, and both she and Bethany College coach Paul Hubbard confirmed it to ESPN on Thursday.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Harris said. “It’s overwhelming but exciting at the same time.”

NAIA schools can offer partial athletic scholarships, but athletes also can qualify for academic aid, which Harris does as an honors student at East Los Angeles College. Bethany assistant coach Tyrone Carter, who had previously coached at East Los Angeles, informed the coaching staff about Harris last week, and they decided to extend her an offer Wednesday.

“We were absolutely interested,” Hubbard said. “She definitely has the skill set. We’re always looking outside the box or inside the box to find players. We watched her compete against the kids out there.”

Several women have kicked for major college teams, including Katie Hnida at Colorado and New Mexico, and April Goss at Kent State, but none received scholarships to come to school.

“Plenty of females that have played,” Hubbard said. “But [Harris] would be the first at a skill position.”

Read the full story.

Portland State Names Valerie Cleary New Athletic Director

By Molly Blue
The Oregonian/OregonLive


Portland State University President Wim Wiewel has named Valerie Cleary the new Director of Athletics for the Vikings program. Cleary returns to Portland State after spending the past two years as AD at Willamette University in Salem.

Cleary replaces Mark Rountree, who is moving on to a role as Deputy Athletics Director of Georgia Tech.

“As our former associate athletics director who served as interim director before Mark was hired, Valerie Cleary has a keen understanding that academics and community engagement are a central part of the values of Portland State University athletics,” said President Wiewel. “She also has deep experience and knowledge not only of athletics and athletes but of Oregon and the Northwest. We are thrilled that Valerie is returning to our campus as PSU’s new athletics director.”

Previously, Cleary was the senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Portland State. She served in that capacity from September 2013 until she was named PSU’s interim athletics director in the fall of 2014 as PSU was completing an AD search that led to Rountree’s hiring. Cleary was named AD at Willamette in the spring of 2015.

Read the full story here.


Women Athletic Directors Lead Two of the Top Five College Football Programs

By Rachel DeSchepper


“This is huge!”

That’s what Patti Phillips exclaimed from her office the morning of December 5, as she typed out an email to us, her staff: “Two of the top five teams currently have women athletic directors, and Western Michigan is #15 right now…another woman AD. This is such an important milestone for women— it shows that women CAN run successful big-budget football programs, despite the myth that they can’t.”

We get emails like this that celebrate our members from Patti often. (They’re frankly the best part of our jobs!) This time, however, the celebration is particularly groundbreaking: To our knowledge, there have never been two teams with a top five ranking in the College Football Playoffs with a woman leading their athletics departments. But this year, Jen Cohen’s University of Washington Huskies are ranked #4, the Pac 12 champs, and headed to the Peach Bowl; Sandy Barbour’s Penn State Nittany Lions are ranked #5, the Big 10 champs, and headed to the Rose Bowl; and Kathy Beauregard’s Western Michigan Broncos are ranked #15, the Mid-American Conference champs, and headed to the Cotton Bowl. Are you kidding? As Patti says, “women rock!”

“The more women we see in these [AD] positions, the more likely we’re going to have more women who know that they can do it,” Cohen says in a phone conversation last Wednesday. “I think that that’s impactful and that tells a story for other women.”

But as we all know, getting to this point in a woman’s athletic career—especially at a Power 5 school, or on the Bowl Championship level—is not without its challenges and misconceptions. “Women don’t play football. So the question is always how does a woman manage a big-time college football program?” Barbour tells us. “The fact of the matter is, we manage it the same way we oversee wrestling or ice hockey, or some other sport we have in place. Having Jen and I with teams in that top 5, and us going to the Rose Bowl and Washington going the CFP … I think that starts to dispel that myth a little bit.”

For Cohen, who was promoted to athletic director at UW this past June and is in her 18th year at the university, past experiences helped pave the way to her new role. “These jobs are all about fit: Do you match up with what this institution represents, and what this athletic department stands for, and what this community believes in? This has been a great cultural fit, and it’s been the right partnership for the university and for me,” she says. “With all that being said, I’m not sure if anything prepares you for this position until you’re in it. The biggest challenge is really understanding leadership at this level: You’re working to bring hundreds of employees, hundreds of student-athletes, thousands of fans and community members all together under one mission. That’s an unbelievable task. I’m constantly learning and growing and evolving.”

Read the full story here.

Congratulations to our member, UW, for their great season thus far!