Athletics News
ISU Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Title IX

June 23, 2012

In 2012, the Baylor women's basketball team won its second national title and did so with a perfect record of 40-0. The Bears became the seventh women's team to go through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games, after defeating Notre Dame in the NCAA women's basketball championship game. During the 2011-12 season, a record number of people attended NCAA women's basketball games. Attendance for all three NCAA divisions was over 11.2 million, breaking the previous record set in 2008-09, while surpassing the 11 million mark for the fifth-consecutive year. On the diamond, Alabama won its first NCAA Championship title in program history, knocking off Oklahoma in the three-game series. Such memorable seasons and record-setting numbers show just how far women's athletics have come since Title IX was signed into law on June 23, 1972, making the 40th anniversary celebration extra special.

Title IX was written into law to put an end to discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that receive federal funding. President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, but it took several years for legislators to decide what the amendments would mean and how they would be enforced at each institution. The law can generate controversial debate, but one fact that no one can argue is the reality that Title IX has elevated women's athletics.

Before 1972, only 20,000 women participated in collegiate athletics, making up 10 percent of the college student-athletes, while men made up the remaining 90 percent. Today, the percentage is much more equal with women making up 45 percent of college athletic departments and men rounding out the last 55 percent. Financial backing was also an obvious issue prior to the signing of Title IX, when female student-athletes participated without scholarships and had very little institutional funding for coaches salaries, uniforms, travel accommodations, facilities, availability to athletic trainers, marketing resources and not being allowed to recruit off campus. In 2012, women's programs can offer scholarships to student-athletes, have availability to travel accommodations, improved facilities, athletic trainers, can recruit nationally and internationally and promote upcoming events through marketing efforts.

The Illinois State Athletic Department has always been a pioneer of cultural change, especially since the early 1970s. ISU's Director of Athletics Milt Weisbecker hired Will Robinson to lead the Redbird men's basketball team from 1970-75. Robinson was the first African-American to head a NCAA Division I program. So, when former head women's basketball coach and Hall of Famer Jill Hutchison approached Laurie Mabry and Phebe Scottabout putting in a bid to host the first women's basketball postseason tournament a few months before the signing of Title IX, the Illinois State administration was willing to bid on the inaugural tournament.

"I asked the department if we could bid for it, and at the time, Phebe Scottwas the head of the department, and she was huge in getting opportunities for women at a national level," Hutchison praised.

Like Scott, Mabry, whose name now hangs in the rafters at Redbird Arena, also played a pivotal role in increasing the importance and exposure of women's athletics on the national stage. Mabry helped establish the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and served as one of the early presidents of the organization.

"At the time, there was a lack of competition for girls and women, and we felt a need to create our own association to initiate such programs," Mabry recalled. "I was called before a committee of Congress to speak about Title IX regarding its influence and need. I spoke because Illinois State was ahead of the game, having our own (women's) program. We drove our own cars and didn't have a food budget, but we did have a good program. Most other schools had nothing for women. We were a leader in that field because of university leaders w¬¬ho were supportive."

When speaking to the congressional committee and lobbying for equality in women's athletics, Mabry was able to reach the public by relating daughters to sons.

-- The full story can be found in the 2012 August edition of Redbird Magazine, which will be available for purchase later this summer.