Cooley is a
hard-driving, fast and forceful man who comes on not as a crusader for women,
but as both a promoter and a shrewd and pugnacious executive. He gives the
impression that he would be as happy and successful pushing real estate or
managing a tool-and-die works as he is running the best girls' athletic program
in the U.S. "Before coming here," he says, "I had no special
interest in women's rights. My experience was in administration; I came to be
an administrator. This was a poor-relation outfit, and I wanted to make it as
successful and efficient as the organization that exists for boys' sports. I
suppose in a certain sense that was my competition—the group I wanted to
Cooley may not
have beaten the boys' athletic executives, but he surely has played them to a
tie. The two groups are now equal in affluence and influence. The Union has a
plush suite of offices in downtown Des Moines and operates on an annual budget
of $600,000, which comes principally from gate receipts collected at girls'
state championship events. Among Cooley's more important staff members is Jack
North, an ex-newspaperman who distributes weekly rankings and team and
individual statistics in the fashion of the NCAA or NFL. The Union also issues
a monthly newspaper, sponsors clinics and conferences for girls' coaches and
does missionary work among Iowa colleges to acquaint graduating seniors with
the joys and rewards of coaching girls" athletic teams.
artistically and financially, the pi�ce de r�sistance of the Iowa girls'
program is the state basketball championship, which is held each March in Des
Moines. During this five-day tournament the Veterans Memorial Auditorium is
invariably sold out, the girls attracting about 85,000 fans (often they outdraw
the boys" championship, held a week later). Additionally, some five to six
million other spectators see the girls' game (but not the boys') via a
nine-state TV network that Cooley has helped put together.
competing for the entertainment dollar," Cooley says, "and we try to
put on the best show we can. Our girls play in attractive uniforms—they may be
mildly revealing but they are in good taste. The girls are young, graceful,
skillful and enthusiastic about their game, and they are very competitive.
There is no reason why girls' events can't draw well if they are intelligently
In his state
tournament production, Cooley surrounds his girl athletes with cheerleaders,
bands, music, flags, dignitaries, slick souvenir programs and patriotic and
county-fair pageantry of all sorts. In addition to basketball games, there is
an impressive ceremony in which individual and team champions in all other
sports that the Union sponsors are introduced to the crowd and, of course, to
the press and TV cameras. "Basketball is our big attraction," says
Cooley. "We can't expect to draw the same kind of audience for, say, a
tennis or volleyball championship. So we use the basketball tournament as a
showcase for the rest of our activities and the other champions."
means that have been used to build the Iowa girls' sports empire, the citizens
seem well pleased with the end result. Story City, for example, is a town of
2,000 located 15 miles north of Ames in an area known as the Heart of Iowa. It
is one of those John Deere, soda and sundry, grain elevator, church steeple
communities, down whose main street 76 trombonists should perpetually march.
People in Story City still talk about the day in 1972 when the Roland-Story
Community High School (350 students) girls' basketball team won the state
championship. All through last summer and winter the most common subject of
conversation at the drugstore, in the cafe, in the high school corridors, was
whether the girls could repeat. (They did not.) Their chances seemed good since
two All-State players, an agile guard named Karen Ritland and a gunner of a
forward, Cathy Kammin, were returning. Kammin, a shy, dreamy-eyed, 5'8"
farm girl, was the most publicized citizen of Story City, since she was the
school's leading basketball scorer, averaging 41 points—yes, 41—a game.
very big in a little town like this," explains Dallas Kray, the
Roland-Story athletic director. "We encourage a lot of sports and we have a
recreation program that goes full blast in the summer. We spend about $14,000 a
year on sports in the high school. It comes out of the gate receipts. I guess
the girls' basketball team, what with Kammin and Ritland, is our biggest gate
Sitting in the
Roadside Cafe with Cathy Kammin, Karen Ritland and two members of the boys'
basketball team, Alan Eggland and Jim Johnson, and talking about discrimination
against girls in sports is an unusual experience. Reports have filtered into
Story City about inequality between the sexes. The four teenagers find it hard
to relate to these phenomena, just as a 15-year-old Ugandan might be unmoved by
accounts of racial discrimination in Alabama. "Gee, no, I can't think of
any way we're treated much different than boys," says Ritland. "We're
all just basketball players."
"It's not all
equal," says Johnson.
"How do you