Thursday, June 23, 2022

37 Words Turn 50

I Can Do Anything — Stories From The First 50 Years Of Women's Athletics At Princeton

Here you go. Here are the 37 words that have had the greatest impact on college athletics, not to mention so many other parts of American society:

"No person in the United States of America shall, based on 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."

That's the entirety of the text of what is known universally as Title IX. It was written in 1971 by Indiana senator Birch Bayh, and it was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.

That was 50 years ago today (it was also six days after the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex that ultimately led to the Nixon's resignation).

Today there are still inequities between men's and women's college athletics. They are nothing, however, like what existed prior to the enacting of the law. And those inequities continue to be addressed, with more progress made all the time.

The idea that anyone at Princeton would ever suggest that something be done for the men's team and not the corresponding women's team is ludicrous. It has never happened once in any meeting TigerBlog has ever attended, or, for that matter, any he hasn't.

The concept of equity is ingrained in everyone who works here. It's started from the top, from every Director of Athletics with whom TB has worked, and even before then.

TigerBlog has always wondered what women's athletics would look like were it not for Title IX. He'd like to think that societal evolution would have trickled down to athletics (and other educational endeavors) because it would have been the right thing to do, and not just because it was the law.

On the other hand, he's not that naive to think that doing the right thing would always win out. And, there is something he's 100 percent sure of, and that's progress wouldn't happened at the rate it has.

Princeton's women's athletic teams have been wildly successful, from Day 1, which was even before the law was enacted. Today the women have the same access to athletic training, strength and conditioning, nutrition, video boards, marketing, web coverage, travel, facilities and so many other things that allow the women to have the same kind of experience as the men. It wasn't always like that.

The women's athletic program wasn't even two full years old when Title IX became the law. The earliest women pioneers had to deal with all sorts of inequities that helped define their own experiences here.

As TB learned during the interviews for his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics here, Princeton's early teams had to deal with some hostile men's coaches (including a famous quote of "over my dead body will women row out of my boathouse), lack of access to facilities (including having the women's basketball team have to practice on Dillon courts while men's pickup games went on around them), volunteer coaches (actually no immediate budget for women's sports and arduous travel (driving in station wagons, sleeping on mattresses on gym floors at away games).

Some of the women came away from those challenges with bitterness. Others masked it simply by the desire to complete. They talk today about what a bonding experience it was and how it led to lifetime friendships.

The 2022 Princeton women's basketball team played its home games on the same floor as the men's team in Jadwin Gym. They both practiced in Jadwin, alternating days on the main court. The women had the same intro video on the same video board as the men. 

The Tigers won the Ivy League title and then the Ivy League tournament title. Then they flew on a chartered plane to Indiana for the NCAA tournament, where they won a game against Kentucky and then lost by a point to the Hoosiers. Both of those games were on ESPN.

The first Princeton women's basketball Ivy League championship was awarded to the winner of the league's tournament. Princeton won five games — in two days. The schedule was rearranged because nobody had considered that the players would need to eat.

This was held in December of 1974, not even at the end of the season. This was more than two years after Title IX became the law.

Progress wasn't immediate. It's not even complete today. There is no doubt, though, that Title IX, which turns 50 today, has radically changed college sports for the better.

1 comment:

D '82 said...

During the season, would it make sense to assign the main court at Jadwin Gym to whichever of the men's or women's basketball teams was scheduled to play at home that weekend?

The other seven Ivy teams complain about the unusual shooting background at Jadwin, how the deep background behind the backboards with no structures in view makes it hard to gauge distance. It might be partially psychosomatic, but the shooting percentages bear out this hypothesis. Teams other than Princeton shoot worse at Jadwin than they do at home.

So if there is substance to the complaint of visiting teams, let's give our squads the maximum advantage of practicing all week shooting at the baskets and backboards they'll be competing on that weekend.