Ritchie has never lacked confidence. She wasn't surprised that she beat out 33 other candidates, including one other woman, for the job. Nor did she feel special pressure to succeed because she was the first woman to hold the position. "I might have felt it if I hadn't known my stuff, but I did," she says. "Quite honestly, and I hope this doesn't sound big-headed, I knew that because of my background, I was as qualified, if not more qualified, than anyone."
That opinion was not shared by the Department of Labor, which in 1987 denied her labor certification, which she needed to become a resident alien. The government argued that in hiring her the university had overlooked more qualified American applicants. The law requires that qualified U.S. citizens be given job preference over foreigners. After a lengthy appeal process, which Ritchie lost, the university sued the Department of Labor, and in August a federal district judge ruled in her favor.
Cedric Dempsey, the Wildcats' athletic director, is relieved that Ritchie will be staying, not only because she is a first-rate strength coach but also because she counsels athletes against taking steroids. "As an international competitor she saw the prevalent use of steroids and is strongly opposed to it," says Dempsey. "We didn't want to lose her for that reason. But her value became even more evident when I saw the reaction of our athletes to Meg."
After news broke of Ritchie's dispute with the Department of Labor, she was deluged with phone calls and letters of support from friends and fellow coaches around the country. "I had proposals of marriage from half the football team," she says with a laugh. "They said they'd do anything to keep me here."