WELLESLEY – When Connie Bauman was coaching three high school girls’ sports teams outside of Chicago in 1977, she saw that salaries for boys’ coaches were much higher than women who coached. “It was lopsided,” she said.
She brought a class action suit against the school district, which included four schools. “We didn’t tell our athletic directors,” said Bauman. “We knew they’d tried to talk us out of it.”
Nine months later, the court ruled in favor of the girls’ teams coaches. They got raises. “The schools knew they had no case. It was a great day. That’s why I’m so passionate about Title IX,” said Bauman, the associate professor of physical education and sports medicine at Wellesley College.
Title IX turns 40 this year. In 1972, legislation passed that read “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
To recognize the groundbreaking Title IX and the battles still being fought, Wellesley held a panel discussion with five distinguished women in sports that drew over 200 student-athletes to Alumnae Hall this week.
The panelists were Kristine Lilly, a collegiate and U.S. Olympic soccer legend; Carol Stiff, vice-president of programming for ESPN; Laura Pappano, writer-in-residence at the Wellesley College Centers for Women where she leads the Women’s Sports Leadership Project; Dr. Amy Baltzell, sports psychologist and faculty member at Wellesley; Melissa Ludtke, who was on Wellesley’s first rowing team and wrote for Sports Illustrated.
While Title IX improved the culture of women’s sports, it hasn’t been a perfect panacea. Battles that were fought in the 70’s continue today when men’s sports dominate the college and professional ranks. Women want their fair: equal coaches’ salaries; better facilities; more scholarships; more fans. But clearly Title IX is a major reason why female sports participation has increased 940 percent since it became law.
While women’s sports don’t do well on TV, compared to men’s ratings, women in sports media are all over TV, sideline reporting, writing for newspapers and magazines and anchoring on ESPN.
Ludtke told the students what it was like back in the day. In 1977, she was covering the Yankees-Dodgers World Series for Sports Illustrated. Although she had credentials for clubhouse access, the Yankees wouldn’t allow her in, although she said ( manager) “Billy Martin would let me in the back door.”
Before Ludtke could enter the Dodgers clubhouse, the players put it to a vote. “I was told it wasn’t unanimous. It was majority. It didn’t matter.” Ludtke was sitting in the auxiliary press box when Game 1 of the World Series began. She was then called to the main press box and told that baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn had rescinded the Dodgers’ vote. Time Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against Major League Baseball. During the 1978 World Series, the clubhouse doors were open to women journalists.
Title IX was allowing women to flex their muscles beyond their own playing fields.
“Title IX prepared me to compete,” said ESPN’s Stiff. “I’ve been in a lot of board rooms with just men.”
“I’m a product of Title IX,” said Lilly. “I went to college on scholarship;” She led North Carolina to four NCAA championships, played in three Olympics, winning gold in 1996 and 2004. She’s the only woman to play in five FIFA Women’s World Cup. After playing for several pro teams, including the Boston Breakers, she retired in 2011. She played in 352 international games, the most in soccer history, women or men.
To promulgate female sports, Lilly said “girls have to see older girls doing things, then say ‘I can do it.’ We need young girls watching sports on TV.”
But Stiff asked, “When do women have time to watch sports?” They’re multi-tasking.
Title IX has been a big boost for females getting college athletic scholarships. One interesting reason, Stiff pointed out, is “dads helping their daughters in sports helps tremendously.” A free, or nearly free, ride to college may be the result.
“My whole career is because of Title IX,” said Baltzell, a member of the U.S. National rowing teams in the early 90’s. She was also on the ’92 Olympic team.
Lilly was such a good athlete that she needed a high level of competition. “I grew up (in Connecticut) playing sports with boys.” She was on a boys’ soccer travel team that went to a tournament. When officials said she couldn’t play, “my team refused to play.”
Wellesley volleyball coach Dorothy Webb has taken her team to the NCAA Div. 3 Final Four twice. She hopes Title IX doesn’t lose steam. “It made tremendous strides in the 70’s and 80‘s, then there was kind of a lull. We have to be careful not to regress. One of the concerns (at Wellesley) is our sports center. We haven’t kept up with the teams we compete against.” The college’s building plans include a major makeover of the field house. “It’s a top priority,” said Webb.
When Wellesley golf coach Sherry Makerney grew up in Texas she couldn’t get a golf scholarship. “It was unheard of (for women). You played golf with boys, or you didn’t play. But because of Title IX I was able to leave the state and get a golf scholarship at Northern Colorado.” Last year Wellesley’s Kimberly Eaton, a pre-med student, was the NCAA Division 3 golfer of the year..
Wellesley’s student-athletes knew a lot more about Title IX after the panel discussion. Kara Lungmus is a soccer player from Mercer Island, Wash. In high school, she was on the gymnastics team. “We were talking about the old equipment we had. The coach told us without Title IV we wouldn’t even have a team.”
Emily Wilson, a soccer player, went to an all-girls’ school in Portland, Ore. “That solidified my understanding of Title IX. On a professional level, women athletes don’t have as much respect as men. On the collegiate level it’s more equal.”
Rachael Goldenberg, a senior softball player from Rochester, N.Y., was an intern last summer at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. where she searched for Title IX issues. She found high school girls’ team coaches who had “experiences of inequality.” The center looked into it.
When Title IX got rolling in the 70’s, Ludtke, who grew up in Amherst, remembered thinking “this is something we’ve got to pay attention to.”
Women have. As Baltzell, the sports psychologist put it, Title IX is “the power of what a piece of legislation can do.”
Reach Lenny Megliola at firstname.lastname@example.org.