Title IX: Legislation that leveled the playing field
Monday, June 25, 2012
Peggy Harmon Brady first put her baby girl on snow skis at age 3. Over the next several years she enrolled her in dance classes, gymnastics, soccer at the YMCA, a city tennis league, club swimming and, at age 6, Peggy took Chris to a practice range. She’d point to a yellow flag and promise a penny if a golf ball sailed over it. Chris, a natural competitor, loved the bait.
Chris ran track and played basketball and golf at Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C. If she ever had to write a book report, the subject was always her idol, Babe Zaharias. Peggy often took Chris to Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club to look at photos of the Babe and drink lemonade. They’d go to Pinehurst just to practice and feel the energy of the place.
“I didn’t really realize my mom was that great of a golfer until I discovered a Sports Illustrated in my attic one time,” said Brady, referring to her mother’s victory at the 1968 U.S. Girls’ Junior and an article chronicling the feat. “Nobody ever said anything.”
Peggy knew that sports would build her daughter’s self-esteem. Nothing would shape her young life more than the time spent learning to kick a soccer ball, flop a wedge or land a back handspring. “There’s so much pressure on girls to be pretty,” Peggy said. “I just didn’t want her to get sucked into a world where that was the important thing.”
Chris, who now, at age 27, has a family of her own, followed in her mother’s footsteps to Vanderbilt. She graduated in 2007, 35 years after her mom received a degree in what’s now known as computer science. They are the only mother-daughter All-American duo in Vanderbilt sports history, and their time spent in Nashville, Tenn., couldn’t have been more different.
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Title IX became law on June 23, 1972, weeks after Peggy Harmon graduated from Vanderbilt. The law stipulated that gender equity be enforced for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. The law wasn’t written for college athletics alone, but it’s the most well-known beneficiary.
Vanderbilt didn’t have varsity teams for women when Peggy was in school from 1968 to ’72. During her sophomore year, then-athletic director Jess Neely asked if she’d like to participate in the National Intercollegiate in Athens, Ga. “What’s that?” Peggy asked.
Neely offered to pay Peggy’s way to the golf event, in which she finished third. Peggy participated in two college tournaments in four years at Vandy, skipping the championship in her senior year to start a new job.
Today’s college golfers know little of the barren landscape that predates their time on campus. When Cathy Mant won the national championship in 1970, she didn’t qualify for an athletic scholarship at Arizona State because she majored in marketing rather than physical education. Back then, only phys-ed majors at ASU were eligible for such grants.
Mant received three golf balls per tournament and a $5 per diem for food. She checked out her golf bag from the university’s equipment room. The coach, Mant said, was “basically someone just making reservations.”
Now, as head coach of the women’s team at Georgia State, Mant happily gives her team the spoils of Title IX. The players are mostly oblivious to the past. She took her team to play in Miami last March and had them meet with JoAnne Carner, one of Mant’s mentors and an LPGA Hall of Famer.
“My players had no clue who she was,” Mant said. ASU’s Carner, incidentally, was the first woman in the U.S. to earn a college golf scholarship.
Last year, Mant was asked by her administration to carry nine players on her roster to help meet Title IX requirements since Georgia State added football two years ago. (The law mandates specific male/female ratios for participation.) It’s one to two more players than she’d usually carry. The school will add women’s sand volleyball in the fall.
“It’s a little more than I would like,” Mant said, “but I’m doing what has been asked – my contribution to making this all work.”
To appreciate the depth and talent of today’s game, one must revisit the past. The first national championship for all of women’s collegiate sports was an individual golf championship, in 1941. Gladys Palmer, head of the physical education department at Ohio State, spearheaded the initiative with some encouragement from Minnesota’s Patty Berg. Thirty golfers from 19 colleges competed at OSU’s Scarlet Course, with 16 advancing to match play. The tournament entry fee was $5.
Several women’s organizations held national collegiate championships before the arrival of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which ran the ’72 championship. Title IX didn’t cause an avalanche of cash to flow immediately through women’s athletics. Mary Lou Mulflur wound up with a scholarship to Washington in fall 1976 because the coach donated her salary back to the program. There was no free equipment. No team shorts.
“I just knew that having Title IX meant I was going to have a chance to play golf past high school,” said Mulflur, who now coaches at Washington. “All of my close friends ended up playing golf. I remember us thinking that was going to be pretty sweet.”
Tulsa set the standard for women’s college golf in the ’70s. In response to Title IX legislation, the small university set out to add women’s golf and tennis. Officials called Dale McNamara, a Tulsa graduate, to see if she’d help. The athletic department had five scholarships to offer players but no money to pay the coach. Eventually, McNamara got onboard, launching the program in 1974.
“I spent a lot of time in bars at night talking to the men’s coaches,” said McNamara of her coaching education. “I found out the name of the game was recruiting.”
McNamara became fascinated with a young girl from New Mexico named Nancy Lopez. She hitched a ride on a friend’s private jet to Roswell and met Lopez at the airport. McNamara, who still wasn’t getting paid herself, didn’t have a full scholarship to offer Lopez, who also was being recruited by Arizona State.
“I remember going to my athletic director and saying ‘If you had a chance to recruit O.J. Simpson (who would win a Heisman at USC), would you offer him half a scholarship?’ ” McNamara recalled. “He said, ‘Hell, no.’ Well, I’ve got an O.J. Simpson that’s going to change everything that’s known about this university.”
Lopez got a full scholarship, and she was a first-team All-American at Tulsa for two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). In landing the future LPGA Hall of Famer, McNamara said she recruited “instant tradition.”
“She is and was the most wonderful breath of fresh air I have ever come across,” McNamara said.
As McNamara began pushing the envelope on team uniforms, bags and level of play, she wound up with a salary. It was about that time when the university decided to cancel the men’s golf program, which had been around since the 1930s.
McNamara said that wasn’t an option and offered to coach both programs. From 1976 to ’77, she coached a men’s team that included Hank Haney.
The men’s program survived at Tulsa, and McNamara – who started with a budget of $1,500 for the women, enough to get the team to Kansas and back – built a dynasty with the help of golf-loving oil tycoons and a gregarious personality. She eventually became an assistant athletic director.
Women’s golf didn’t fall under the NCAA’s umbrella until 1982. The AIAW Championship and NCAA Championship each were held that season, and Tulsa won both.
“I thought the NCAA was going to be the best thing that happened to us, and it was,” said McNamara, referring to an immediate boost in exposure and stature. As former Oklahoma State coach Ann Pitts said, most people had trouble keeping the AIAW acronym straight, let alone knew what the letters meant. Pitts was hired by OSU in 1976 to take women’s golf from a club sport to a varsity sport. She retired in 2000.
“Title IX was not very popular because (the men) felt like it was going to take away from what they had,” Pitts said. “I think that sentiment stayed clear through the ’80s.”
Pitts reckons the ’80s were spent fighting Title IX, and the ’90s were spent building women’s sports. Not that it was easy.
In 1993, Pitts sued Oklahoma State under the Equal Pay Act as well as Title IX and Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects individuals from employment discrimination). She didn’t win the Equal Pay Act complaint but did win the other suits. Pitts received back pay and negotiated a new contract for a significant pay raise. The victory, she said, helped several other female coaches at OSU move up the pay scale.
Pitts said many people believe the effects of Title IX would’ve happened naturally, even without the legislation. She doesn’t agree.
“I think sometimes you have to force change,” Pitts said.
When North Carolina coach Jan Mann was a kid growing up in Jacksonville, N.C., there weren’t any high school sports for girls. But that didn’t stop her from playing.
“From the time the sun came up ’til it went down, I was outside,” said Mann, who particularly enjoyed tennis and volleyball.
Mann played intramural softball in college at UNC-Wilmington because there weren’t any athletic teams for women. She didn’t take up golf until after she was married.
“Gosh, I would have done anything to play sports in college,” Mann said. “I don’t know that (today’s athletes) really know the opportunity they have and how special it is.”
In Mann’s 17 years of coaching, she can count on one hand the number of her players who have pursued professional golf. Title IX is more about creating opportunities than developing professional athletes.
Women’s golf, in particular, has flourished under the law. The number of golf teams across all three divisions has jumped from 125 in 1982 to 575 in 2011. Only four sports have gained more programs: cross country, soccer, softball and indoor track.
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At the Karsten Creek clubhouse restaurant, the Oklahoma State men’s and women’s golf teams enjoy a lunch that’s far better than any cafeteria fare. Table bragging rights this spring belong to the women’s program: They’re ranked higher than the men.
“It’s so much more fun to be good,” said junior Hillary Wood, grinning.
There’s no question the Cowgirls have benefitted immeasurably from the success of the men’s program. They hone their games at one of the nation’s finest college practice facilities. Male and female recruits walk down a clubhouse hallway that’s covered from floor to ceiling with awards.
“How could you not want to be a part of that?” asked OSU sophomore Lauren Falley, who joined the team as a walk-on.
The players concede they’re spoiled. The women have played Karsten Creek from the moment it opened in 1994. They often work out alongside the baseball team and take pride in their extensive uniform collection. Both golf teams have been known to fly privately. Aside from a championship ring, the women want for nothing.
Athletes today hardly can imagine a college life without sports. They often wonder: What do non-athletes do all day? “They better make all A’s,” said Oklahoma State junior Kelsey Vines. Washington’s Mulflur said it’s OK to excuse today’s female athletes for not knowing much about Title IX and what came before it.
“If we’re doing things right, they shouldn’t need to know what Title IXis,” Mulflur said. “It’s just natural. Everyone gets this.”
Linda Vollstedt started coaching at Arizona State in 1980 for a salary that was one-third that of her male counterpart. Her office was in the basement of a locker room, and her team practiced on a dirt field behind the P.E. buildings.
After her Sun Devils won the NCAA Championship by 16 strokes over UCLA in 1990, Vollstedt told her athletic director it was time that her salary was equal to the men’s.
“The response was reluctant, but he did it,” said Vollstedt, who led ASU to six national championships.
Today, few things warm Vollstedt’s heart more than watching boys and girls share a field or court, their fathers equally proud.
“Thirty years ago, that was not the thing to do,” Vollstedt said. “(Fathers) didn’t want little tomboys. They wanted little princesses.”
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At age 24, Chris Brady accepted a job offer from The Shaw Group in the middle of a rain delay at a pro-am event. Six months later, she married Jason Wolfe. Son Connor joined the family 18 months ago. Brady, a civil structural design engineer, serves as the interface coordinator on a project in Columbia, S.C.
“I’m basically helping design and build the first nuclear plant in 30 years in this country,” said Brady, who recently competed in the Nuclear Cup, her firm’s in-house tournament. She was an LPGA rookie in 2008 and retired in ’09.
At 27, Brady is the only female at the daily 7 a.m. meeting and the youngest in the room. Her years playing sports prepared her for such a role.
“They know that I was a world-class athlete,” she said. “That in itself gains respect before you even sit down at the table.”
The men’s soccer program was cut while Brady was a student at Vanderbilt. The school added women’s swimming and bowling. Brady acknowledges the perceived “double-edged sword” of Title IX but is grateful that the legislation is in place, saying remedying past injustices sometimes comes at a price.
Meanwhile, Peggy Brady is secretly working on her grandson’s golf swing. He’ll have two generations of Brady women available to teach him.