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GOING OUTSIDE TITLE IX TO KEEP COACH-ATHLETE RELATIONSHIPS IN BOUNDS

DEBORAH L. BRAKE*

Coach-athlete “romances” are the dirty little secrets of sport. No one wants to talk about them. Now and then, a high profile scandal rips through the headlines—as when University of North Carolina’s legendary soccer coach, Anson Dorrance, was accused of sexually harassing his players.
1 On these infrequent occasions, the glare of the media spotlight forces a brief period of introspection about the proper boundaries of the coach-athlete relationship. Even then, it is mostly the extreme allegations that garner  attention—conduct clearly identifiable as sexual harassment, especially if it involves a sexual assault. In the case of Coach Dorrance, the complained-of behaviors were verbal and did not involve physical advances; 2 the notoriety of the case stemmed from the coach’s fame and track record and its addition to a small handful of reported court decisions involving coach-athlete sexual harassment in intercollegiate sports.3 Absent headline-grabbing scandals, however, coach-athlete relationships are rarely examined for their impact on womens sports and athlete well-being. This is largely because they do not come within the ambit of Title IX, which sets the agenda for conversations about gender equity in sport.

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