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WOMEN IN SPORT: A PROGRESS REPORT
Bil Gilbert
July 29, 1974
A year ago Sports Illustrated published a series of articles detailing discrimination against women in athletics. Since then the subject has gained national prominence. A survey now shows that political and judicial pressures—and the increasing effect of the women's liberation movement—are bringing about consequential changes in American sport
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July 29, 1974

Women In Sport: A Progress Report

A year ago Sports Illustrated published a series of articles detailing discrimination against women in athletics. Since then the subject has gained national prominence. A survey now shows that political and judicial pressures—and the increasing effect of the women's liberation movement—are bringing about consequential changes in American sport

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With all due respect to the promoters of football, baseball and lacrosse empires, to various newly endowed sportsmen-millionaires, to Mr. Henry Aaron, Mr. Don Shula, Mr. George Foreman, Mr. David Thompson, Mr. Secretariat, this has been the Year of the Woman in sport. In the past 12 months women—not big-league commissioners, rule changers, labor negotiators or moneymen—have been the most formidable movers and shakers of the athletic world. In courts of law and on the playgrounds of America they have been demanding and doing things that have altered long-standing sporting policies and prejudices.

An explosion of female participation in athletics has been noted (with varying degrees of pleasure and alarm) by virtually every sports administrator in the U.S. Some schools and colleges are reacting with surprising suddenness to the trend. A prime and positive example is provided by the University of Washington, which a year ago was spending just $18,000 (or seven-tenths of 1% of a $2.6 million athletic budget) on women. The 1974-75 women's budget will be close to $200,000. And, as if that were not enough, the university's board of regents last week authorized construction of an addition to Edmundson Pavilion, headquarters of male Husky sports, to be used exclusively for women's intercollegiate athletics. The new wing will cost between $1 and $2 million.

Another Pac-8 school, UCLA, has upped its budget for women from $60,000 to $180,000 and is making plans to spend half a million dollars annually on women's athletics by the fall of 1979. ( UCLA has also opened all its teams, including varsity football and basketball, to both sexes. When John Wooden was asked if he thought a woman could make his team, he smiled and said, "No.")

This September the University of New Mexico will begin offering a dramatically expanded women's athletic program that includes 20 scholarships. Two years ago UNM's total outlay for women's sports was $9,300. "We are not up to equality yet but are perhaps a third of the way there," says administrator Linda Estes.

In the East, Penn State, which has had intercollegiate teams for women for a decade, seems determined to maintain its leadership. Beginning this fall the women's athletic budget will be doubled to $80,000 and at least $20,000 more will be spent on scholarships. "Given the times, this is not that radical a move," says Robert Scannell, dean of the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

With such major colleges intent on competing for national women's championships, the growth and increased prominence of female intercollegiate sports seems assured.

A new attitude is also evident on the high school level. For instance, Kentucky has passed a law requiring every public high school with a boys' varsity basketball team to sponsor a girls' varsity as well. State Senator Nicholas Baker, who introduced the bill, declares, "The idea of sports in schools is not to create a feeder system for the pros but to create an interest that will carry over into the adult years, so people know how to keep in shape when they are past 30. This is just as important for girls as for boys."

In Illinois a sports program for high school girls began only five years ago. Now 50,000 students participate and some schools in the Chicago suburbs offer 14 sports. One school offers 10 sports for girls and only nine for boys.

In California a statewide girls' soccer league was organized in 1971 and drew 2,000 players. This past season 6,000 girls competed, and the figure is expected to increase by 30% in October.

Overall, the National Federation of State High School Associations has found an enormous increase in girls' participation in organized athletics. In 1971 some 300,000 competed. By the end of 1973 the number had jumped to more than 800,000. Figures for 1974 are unavailable, but the federation expects another quantum leap.

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