Title IX, while largely synonymous with equal opportunity for female athletes, was not created just for sex discrimination in sports. When the legislation was signed into law in 1972, along with the Education Amendments, the goal of the authors — one of whom was an IU alumnus, Birch Bayh — was to provide equal access and opportunities for women at publicly-funded universities.
Athletics was one of many aspects of life impacted by Title IX, but it was one that had some of the most profound effects on women and the world of sports as we know it today.
"For today's generation, it's largely unimaginable to think of a time when women did not and could not compete in intercollegiate athletics," IU Vice President and Athletic Director Scott Dolson said in a release from IU Athletics. "That was the reality prior to Title IX. This anniversary is a great time for everyone to reflect on not only the strides we have made during these last 50 years, but also the work that we still have ahead."
Women still played sports in some capacity before 1972. Indiana women’s basketball has existed since 1890, when basketball became a part of the curriculum in the Department of Physical Training for Women. The basement of Wylie Hall, a chemistry building at the time, was home to the first interclass basketball games.
Women’s basketball continued to thrive to the extent it could in a time when women playing sports was largely not taken seriously by the general public and when IU provided little funding. In 1962, the team started traveling throughout Indiana to play opponents, and its first varsity season came in 1971 when Bea Gorton became the first head coach for the Indiana women’s basketball team.
In 2022, there are 13 varsity women’s sports teams and more than 300 female student-athletes at IU. Indiana women’s basketball is one of the school’s most successful programs in recent years. Without the passing of Title IX, there’s a chance that none of that would be possible.
To honor the current athletes and those who came before them, IU Athletics announced its schedule for a year-long celebration of Title IX.
Two days before the anniversary, IU Athletics held a reception for current and former student-athletes, coaches and staff. On June 23 and 24, two members of the Indiana women’s basketball team, senior Mackenzie Holmes and junior Kiandra Browne, and one member of the Indiana rowing team, sophomore Ara Cowper, attended the Big Ten Women’s Leadership Summit at Big Ten Headquarters.
The athletes were accompanied by IU’s Deputy Director of Athletics Mattie White, Assistant Field Hockey coach Dani Castro and Faculty Athletics Representative Marietta Simpson, where a variety of panels and speakers presented on topics related to Title IX.
IU Athletics also announced plans for a “microsite” highlighting biographies of pioneers in Indiana women’s sports and important moments in its history. There will also be a video series and other social media posts rolling out during the year to share historic and present-day stories of and from former Hoosiers.
An inaugural IU Athletics Women’s Excellence Symposium is planned for Saturday, August 13 for fans, alumni, donors, athletes, coaches and staff. The symposium will give attendees the opportunity to be informed, engaged and inspired, according to the release from IU Athletics.
The Women’s Excellence program launched in 2021 as a way to raise money to provide IU’s female student-athletes with tools and opportunities for personal and career development, including foreign training trips and improved facilities.
Thanks to the Women’s Excellence program, Indiana women’s basketball recently announced its plans for a renovation of its team center in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The renovation is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
"What we've already done is just the beginning,” Dolson said. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, there is no better time for the Hoosiers to step forward and support our efforts to take women's intercollegiate athletics at Indiana University to a new level."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year the women's basketball team started traveling.