Whether or not
women athletes will follow men into the big-business hoopla of college sport
was the topic of long debate at last week's meeting in Memphis of the
Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. The AIAW worried, for
example, about Nancy Lieberman of Far Rockaway, N.Y., a high school basketball
star who played on the U.S. team at the Olympics and who last spring was
courted by more than 70 colleges. Coaches sat on her doorstep; one offered her
a free car and an apartment if she would accept a scholarship.
The AIAW finally
decided that, beginning in August 1978, scholarships will be limited to tuition
and fees (no room and board and so on). It also forbids schools from paying
coaches for recruiting-trip expenses. Some who object to these rules protest
that limiting aid to women penalizes Jane while John breezes through college on
a full ride.
young women what is given to men is not only illegal, it is immoral," says
Linda Estes, women's athletic director at the University of New Mexico. On the
other hand, Christine Grant of Iowa, head of an AIAW committee that analyzed
the proposals, warns that liberalized recruiting and broader scholarship aid
"would lead us down a path where we would think of the student as a
property who performs prescribed tasks."
Others opposed to
the AIAW restrictions feel that bigtime sport for women is here already. Horace
McCool, athletic director at Delta State, which has won the women's national
basketball championship twice in a row, says, "Our whole region is in favor
of recruiting. I don't care what they're talking about. When we play the game
we play to win, and therefore we want to go look for the finer high school
athletes. Our young ladies this year will play 12 home ball games and eight of
them will be sellouts."
The question, of
course, is whether women's athletics should continue to be part of the
educational process or drift into the sports-entertainment business. It's not
an easy question to answer.
In the old days,
the Big Ten used to prosper in the Rose Bowl—when it was the Big Ten instead of
the Big Two. From 1947 through 1968, the first 22 years of the pact that brings
the Pacific Coast and the Midwest together in Pasadena on New Year's Day, the
Big Ten had a 16-6 edge, and every school in the conference made at least one
trip to the Rose Bowl. Since 1969, when Michigan and Ohio State took over, only
those two overinflated powerhouses have gone to Pasadena. And they have lost
seven of the nine games they've played there.
conclusion seems to be that the Big Ten was far more effective when it was a
competitive conference, when playing talent was more evenly distributed, when
its eventual champion had to win more than a two-team race.