This one gets its own post: Portland State Coach Sherri Murrell is the only openly gay Division I women’s basketball coach, out of 335.
It’s certainly no secret. Murrell’s PSU bio ends with the line, Murrell and her partner, Rena Shuman, welcomed twins Halle Jane and Rylan Patrick into their family on February 24, 2009. In Portland, two lesbian moms are about as novel as a food cart, and you might think the same would be true in women’s college basketball. But here’s the undeniable reality: There are 335 Division I women’s basketball head coaches, both male and female. When Murrell identified herself as gay in her official bio, she joined, well, exactly no one on the list of D-I coaches who had previously come out. Murrell was the list. Murrell is the list.
“It is kind of comical,” says the 43-year-old, a Redmond native. “Even my straight friends, they just laugh with me about it—like, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Because there’s a lot of lesbian coaches in this business.”
Which is exactly why it’s a big deal. Even as the country fitfully accepts gay marriage, certain pockets of the sports world are like throwbacks to the segregated ’60s, and not just in men’s locker rooms. Exhibits A, B, and C: The 2009 documentary Training Rules exposes homophobic former Penn State women’s hoops coach Rene Portland, who maintained a policy of “no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians.” Last season the Washington Mystics of the WNBA got rid of its “kiss cam” to avoid showing same-sex lip-locks. And in Louisville, Kentucky, there’s a club team of Division I–bound girls whose coach attempts to steer his players away from “the lesbian and homosexual lifestyle which is so prevalent in woman’s/girl’s athletics.”
Now that’s some bravery.