"Most people think that the SWA means Senior Women's Administrator. I think that title throws a lot of people off. That person is usually the highest female (administrator) in the athletic department. It doesn't mean it's the only female or that she will be the only one working with the women's sports. The SWA could be any number of positions, the compliance officer, the CFO or any other one."
As the SWA, do you have a role in the gender equity aspect of the athletic department?
"I do have some role that may be gender equity based. You will have more of your female sports coaches come to you because they know the SWA will fight for them since it's a female sport.
"That role also includes me being the liaison between the university and the NCAA on our gender equity. If a certification team should come in they would come to me and I would try to get everything ready for them."
How often does a certification team come in?
"They come in every four years but it's gotten to be an even longer period than that. I've actually been appointed to the NCAA Certification committee. I am going to Indianapolis next week to learn more about the position."
Each senior associate athletic director has certain sports that they are responsible for. What are your sports?
"I am the sports administrator for our women's basketball team, our volleyball team, and our track team including men's and women's track and field and cross country."
You not only handle the minor things but the major things such as helping to hire a head coach. How much input did you have in the hiring of the volleyball head coach, Jenny Hazelwood?
"When we got ready to hire our new volleyball both (MSU AD) Greg Byrne and I interviewed candidates together at the tournament. From start to finish, he and I made the decision on her. We were both in agreement on who we interviewed as well as our final decision."
You are also responsible for Student Services, a job that Dr. David Boles, who recently retired, was heavily involved in.
"At the time he retired Dr. David Boles was our Student Support Services liaison. But before he retired Greg started shifting our positions. I am now the liaison between our athletic/academic office which is under the provost office. Any new policies that the provost might give to that department they would make sure I know about them and I will then relay them to our coaches."
That's only a portion of it. Don't you also deal with scholarships?
"Yes, I do a scholarship list which I get from the coaches. That lists include kids who are on scholarship, including medical, 5th year, managers. We get the list in so that we can make sure things run smoothly for our orientation that is on August 14th.
"I also do the same for our graduate assistants. Any graduate assistant who is working for our department will come through me. Christy Freeman and I make sure they have been fully accepted in the graduate assistant program and are not a provisional student."
You also are involved in community service involving student/athletes, aren't you?
"I handle community service with all of our student/athletes because I am the CHAMPS Life Skills Coordinator. I am responsible in helping anyone who wants one of our student/athletes for community service.
"I am also the SAC Advisor, which is our Student Advisory Council. (MSU football player) D.J. Looney is our president. And D.J. is also the SEC rep for the NCAA as well. I think we have a really good one because he does a really, really good job of getting information about SAC to our students/athletes. This year we are going to start a new program where they will help out with our orientation for our new students in August. We also received a CHOICES grant in conjunction with the Student Health Center. We are getting ready to do public announcements concerning alcohol. And we are going to use a lot of our student/athletes to do those.
"I also organize seminars for our student/athletes. Our coaches can request a seminar and I will find someone who will come and speak to them on whatever the topic is about.
"All those things come under the Student Support Services portion of my job."
I want to go back to gender equity. How does a school become gender equitable?
"There is a lot to if. But what you are trying to do is be as equitable as possible between the men's and women's sports."
Are the number of scholarships the most important factor?
"You don't just look at the number of scholarships because the scholarships are going to basically balance out. You also have to look at the female/male ratio of your general student population.
"You also look at how equal (the men's and women's sports) are with what they are wearing, how they are traveling. An example of what would be inequitable is if the men's team travels by plane every time and the women's team goes in a mini-van every time. But that doesn't happen here.
"Football is a little unique when it comes to travel, though. You have 80+ plus people, including the coaches, traveling somewhere. You can't put them on a commercial flight. And you can't put them on a bus going a long distance because that would involve a wellness factor for your kids. You have to fly them.
"Other sports (with a smaller number of athletes) are different because with our sleeper bus the kids on those sports can stretch out, be comfortable and go to sleep. Sometimes they will even go earlier which allows them to get their legs back and practice early."
Does the NCAA take the uniqueness of football into consideration when it comes to gender equity?
"The NCAA doesn't really look at that part. They look at the other things you do on campus. They understand that football is a large number of athletes and there are some things you have to do with them that you don't necessarily have to do with the other sports. When they start frowning is when you have a women's locker room that you wouldn't want to serve your pig in and the men's locker room is like gold. That is what I mean by inequitable.
"Another part of it is the salaries of your female sports coaches (compared to the salaries of the men's sports coaches). That is another area that they look at.
"Really, there are a number of areas that they look at."
Financially, won't the SEC-ESPN tv contract help Mississippi State make the finances more equal for the women's sports?
"It is going to help but it won't be overnight. That money could help in a lot of areas, facilities, salaries and other things that would help our student/athletes be more competitive."
The women's basketball team has a new locker room. How much will that help the women's team competitive-wise?
"First, it helps them in the sense that they feel like the university really supports them. They have a brand new area that they can go in and relax just like our men can. It also will help with recruiting. You bring (recruits) into that room and they see that they have a place that they can call their own. Plus, they see Tan White's and LaToya Thomas' pictures on the wall and they can see themselves being on that same wall. They see that we are putting money into women's basketball. That puts us on a more level ground with the kids."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.