ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Title IX in my lifetime

It is a good thing

AP Photo

I watched the NCAA Division I final last night between the University of South Carolina and the University of Connecticut, aired on ESPN. It was a lavish production and a great game, won by the Gamecocks for the second championship under head coach Dawn Staley.

The game also marked the celebration of 50 years under Title IX. The law was enacted in 1972 to, in the words of the rule: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (US Dept. of Edu., n.d.).

I was in 9th grade when Title IX became law. My school district did not offer sports to women, except for gymnastics, swimming and tennis. In fact, the district elected to wait the full three years permitted by the law to begin implementation of women’s sports. My senior year saw the first two sports added, volleyball and track. Basketball was not added until the 1978–79 season at my high school. I believe that may have been due to the old Texas girls high school rule of 6 on 6, instead of 5 on 5. For some unknown reason, many states felt that girls just could not perform on the basketball court, and adapted the game to a half court game. There were three offensive and three defensive players on each side of the court. Players could not advance the ball over the half court except by passing the ball to the other side. It made for some very lopsided games when you had offensive players that were very good defensively. Fortunately that rule ended after the 1977 season in Texas and girls were allowed to play the traditional game of 5 on 5.

I started calling sports on radio during the 1977–78 season. I worked for a radio station in the Texas panhandle that had an average football team, average boys basketball team and a very good girls basketball team. In fact they were one of the top teams in the state, despite never making it to the playoffs. They were blessed with being in the same region as the top team in the state, a perennial state champion. But they were fun to call on radio and I had a great vantage point from the top of the gymnasium, surrounded by a full house. In fact, the girls team outdrew the boys team. It was always a sellout on the home side. When the team played on the road, they always drew well.

This team won their district in the 78–79 season and went to the state tournament. They finally won it all in 1980. I remember how talented this team was, but for many of the players, that state championship game was their final time in a uniform. Two of the players went on to junior college, but the rest never played again. Many of the colleges were still behind on putting womens programs together and there were far too many talented women and far too few collegiate programs in the late 70s.

I currently call college basketball for an NCAA Division I women’s basketball team. That school started their program during the 1976–77 season, as did many other colleges. Those schools did not compete under NCAA rules, as the NCAA didn’t recognize women’s basketball until the 1981–82 season, when Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA womens championship. And it took until this season for the term “March Madness” to be used for the women’s championship.

I am a huge fan of women’s basketball. There are no dunks, just pure shooting skills (although I do enjoy the occasional dunk). The game continues to evolve and is always entertaining.

What is sad is that it took a federal regulation to give us the product we have today. What is also sad is that it took the same federal regulation to allow women to have credit cards, bank accounts, etc. Title IX is a good thing, but I wish it was a law we never needed.

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John Archer

John Archer

Eisenhower baby. Sportscaster. Amateur photographer. IT Pro. Ham radio operator. Oh, and I occasionally write (but not too much).

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