AP Was There: Pre-Title IX ‘dark ages’ for female athetes

By 1974, colleges and universities across the United States were starting to measure the full impact of Title IX, the landmark 1972 law that called for equitable treatment of men and women in programs receiving federal funding.

The ripple effects were particularly felt in college athletics, where men’s sports had long received the lion’s share of attention, funding and support. There was clear resistance among athletic directors to tackle the topic of women’s sports and The Associated Press put together a five-part series looking into the details.

Below is one story from that series as it appeared in the Press and Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York, on Nov. 13, 1974.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — It will come as no surprise that women athletes at the nation’s colleges do not get the same treatment as their male counterparts. But they may soon because a law called Title IX says universities must provide equal athletic opportunities for both sexes. Here is a report on what it was like being a woman athlete before Title IX.

By FRED ROTHENBERG

AP Sports Writer

The typical athletic director in the typical college athletic department is not a women-hater. On his desk, next to all the trophies, is a family portrait showing his wife, and maybe a daughter or two.

Outside his carpeted office, there’s another smiling female who pours him coffee, opens his mail and types his letters. He’ll say he’s all for women.

But, in many cases, his athletic budget won’t reflect it.

“I don’t understand what goes on in the heads of those athletic directors,” says Dan Bakinowski, who gratuitously coached Boston University’s women’s crew team to two national championships last summer. “They feel the women athletes are going to go away. If they think that, then they’re only fooling themselves.”

“Women’s athletics is not a fad. There are just too many of them out there. They have so much enthusiasm and it isn’t going to stop. The ADs had better wise up.”

And if the colleges want to continue receiving their federal checks for assistance in various areas, some athletic departments are going to have to change their emphasis because the long arm of the law is on the way to help women’s sports.

With Title IX of the 1972 Education Act, which prohibits discrimination in any university program, about to be fully enforced, opportunities are opening up for women’s athletics on many campuses, prompting Anne Findlay Chamberlain, a first-year scholarship recipient at Penn State, to say:

“It used to be that we had to wear skirts and nylons to a game. But that whole era has changed now and we don’t have to be embarrassed to be female athletes anymore, even though I never was.”

The past is not so encouraging to women. Those days were the dark ages of women’s sports – an era that still exists on some campuses today – when the men had the whole pie and the women were lucky if they got some crumbs.

The Boston University women’s crew team won two national championships this past summer, and they did it without one cent from that school’s athletic department, which gave men’s crew $35,000 and two full-time coaches last year.

“We practiced at six in the morning so we wouldn’t get in the way of the men’s team, and also because our volunteer coach (Bakinowski) worked from 9 to 5,” recalls team member Betsy Hochberg.

“To compete in meets,” Hochberg says, “we had to borrow boats from other schools. We fund-raised with bake sales, raffles and car washes. We even resorted to a rowing marathon. We set up a swimming pool in front of the student union and rowed in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day for one whole week. People came by and threw change in the pool.

“It was like begging. But the money had to be raised somehow. BU wasn’t going to give it to us … crew is demanding enough under the best conditions, but practicing at six in the morning with flashlights, when ice is forming on the oarlocks and you can’t see two feet in front of you, well, it’s almost unbearable.”

Almost. With all those problems, the team still managed to quality for the national championships in Oakland, Calif., causing a new set of problems – transportation and lodging for them and their boats.

They borrowed a boat from Radcliffe and, ironically, ended up beating Radcliffe in the finals. They paid their own way to California, a cost of $1,000 per woman. And they rented the boat trailer owned by the BU men’s crew team for five cents a mile, a cost of some $300 for the 6,000-mile round trip.

“If we had been men,” says Hochberg, “the athletic department wouldn’t have been able to do enough things for us.”

Many athletic departments have recognized the existence of women, and, of course, athletics but not the two together.

At Ohio State, women received $40,000 last year out of whopping $6 million athletic budget. This year, the women’s ante has been raised to $83,000.

“No more four girls to a room. No more cars without heaters half-freezing our girls,” says Phyllis Bailey, in charge of Ohio State’s 11 intercollegiate sports for women.” We drove two hard days to a Big Ten swim meet in Minneapolis last year and two hard days back. The men’s team flew. We simply didn’t have the funds.”

At Texas A&M, women have 10 sports and a total budget of $200.

Most schools have operated women’s athletics “on a different philosophy than men’s programs,” says John E. Shay, vice president of student affairs at the University of Rhode Island.

“Men’s sports have full-time coaches in most major sports or are freed from regular teaching duties to undertake coaching,” Shay says. “Women have coached the women’s sports as an overload, in addition to their other duties on campus.”

Title IX is designed to eventually create one identical sports philosophy for both sexes but it won’t erase the bad memories.

Gwen Gregory, the HEW (Department of Health, Education and Welfare) official presently working on Title IX’s final enforcement regulations, tells the following story:

“A women’s track team in Illinois had a meet scheduled one year in advance and invited colleges from all around the area. The week before the meet, the men’s track coach called up and said he was sorry but the guys wanted some extra practice the day of the meet. The meet was canceled.”

Nancy Scannel, a reporter for the Washington Post, said that at Texas A&M, Dennis Fosdick, coach of the women’s swimming team, paid $2,200 of his own money to get his team to the national championships, while the week before the university paid for the men’s team to fly to their national championships.

A businessman whose daughter competes on the basketball, volleyball and track teams at Maryland has filed a Title IX complaint against the school. Carl Croydor says the school’s men’s basketball team traveled by plane to the University of Virginia – a three-hour bus ride. But “in the height of the energy crisis last December, the university had the women’s basketball team drive themselves to Rochester – an eight-hour ride – to compete in the Eastern Regionals.

“The girls didn’t know if they would be able to find enough gas to get back,” Croydor said.

Bakinowski says he stopped getting up at 5:30 a.m. to coach the BU crew because “the university didn’t do a thing for us … the athletic department just has a bunch of distorted values. They just don’t see the injustice when men get free rides and women have to go out and sell coffee.”

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AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.

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For more on Title IX’s impact, read AP’s full report: https://apnews.com/hub/title-ix Video timeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdgNI6BZpw0

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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