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
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.")
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
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
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.
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