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Secretary Benson names advisory members for Task Force on Women in Sports

Task Force on Women in Sports

Leading experts to advise on task force's work, recommendations

LANSING – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced the advisory members for the Michigan Task Force on Women in Sports. These 16 national leaders will advise the Task Force on its ongoing work and inform its final recommendations to the Governor. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order creating the task force in June, 47 years after the passage of Title IX. The executive order named Benson as chair of the task force. With the addition of the advisory members, the task force brings together local and national leaders to develop strategies to support and promote opportunities in Michigan for girls and women in sports.

“I am grateful that many of our country’s leaders in advancing women in sports will lend their expertise and experience to inform our work, placing Michigan in the forefront nationally for ensuring a level playing field for all,” Benson said. 

The Michigan task force membership selected the following advisors: 

  • Val Ackerman is Commissioner of the Big East Conference. Previously, she was the founding president of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and a past president of USA Basketball. 
  • Dr. Deborah Antoine is chief executive officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Her career as a nonprofit executive spans four decades as an educator, strategic planner, team builder and entrepreneur. 
  • Neena Chaudhry is general counsel and senior advisor for education at the National Women’s Law Center. Her education work focuses on girls who experience harassment, are denied athletics opportunities, face unfair discipline, or are discriminated against because they are pregnant.
  • Dr. Ramona Cox is an associate athletic director with the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) responsible for volleyball and softball programs for youth. She also oversees the “Girls Changing the Game” program that seeks to increase the number of girls that participate in sport and physical activity and the number of innovative quality programs for girls. Dr. Cox played on the women’s volleyball team at the University of Michigan and is head varsity volleyball coach at Cass Technical High School. 
  • Heather Mitts Feeley is the co-founder of Ceres Platinum Group, which assists female athletes and businesswomen as they transition to a new career. She is one of only four U.S. soccer players to win three Olympic gold medals. Feeley is currently a college soccer analyst for the SEC Network and has worked as an analyst and sideline reporter for several networks. 
  • Dr. Dan Gould is director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University and a professor of kinesiology. He has more than 200 scholarly publications and has been invited to speak on sport psychology topics in more than 35 countries. 
  • Dr. Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, expert on sports issues, scholar and author. Currently, he is president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice and director emeritus of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society. 
  • Heather Lyke is director of athletics at the University of Pittsburgh and previously held athletic department leadership positions at Eastern Michigan University, The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati. She captained the University of Michigan’s Big Ten champion softball team as a scholar-athlete and has worked as a color analyst on softball telecasts for the Big Ten Network.
  • Suzy Merchant is entering her 13th season as head coach of the Michigan State University women’s basketball program and has nearly 500 career wins, bringing the Spartan program to the upper echelon at the Big Ten and national levels. She also was an assistant coach with USA Basketball and helped the team win a gold medal at the World University Games. 
  • Patti Phillips is chief executive officer of Women Leaders in College Sports and has dedicated her career to coaching, mentoring and inspiring women at all levels and in all industries. Previously, she was executive director of the Women’s Intersport Network and is the past president of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. 
  • Scott Pioli is a National Football League executive and television analyst who most recently worked as the assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. Pioli won three Super Bowl rings while vice president of player personnel for the New England Patriots. He was recently honored by the NCAA as a 2019 Champion of Diversity & Inclusion for his efforts as an advocate for equality in sports.
  • Samantha Rapoport serves as the senior director of diversity and inclusion for the National Football League. She created the Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2017, which served to inspire and connect qualified women to football operations positions in professional and college football programs. 
  • Meg Seng is president and executive director of the Academy for Sport Leadership and the director of athletics at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor. She has spent more than 30 years teaching, coaching and overseeing the athletic program at Greenhills School and is past president of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
  • Renée Tirado is the global head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Gucci. She was previously the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Major League Baseball. Before that, she held diversity and inclusion leadership roles for AIG and the United States Tennis Association.
  • Mark Uyl has been executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association since 2018 and was assistant director of the MHSAA since 2004. He is a past chair of the board of the National Association of Sports Officials.
  • Mary Wilson is life trustee at Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, which is dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of southeast Michigan and western New York. She founded the Western New York Girls in Sports program, which biannually brings more than 200 young girls (ages 9-12) together to participate in various sports taught by young athletes from local universities and sports clubs.

Prior to her election as secretary of state, Benson served as a prominent voice and thought leader in the area of sports and equality. She is a founding board member and former CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit organization created to advance equality through sports. At Wayne State University Law School, where she served as dean, Benson taught and developed courses on Gender Equity and Sports and Inequality.


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