One was a tennis player from Illinois, a man with a well-honed sense of fairness combined with a fierce independent streak. The other was a self-described tomboy from Georgia, a woman whose grace and charm made her crusading spirit all the more effective. They settled in southeastern Virginia and, in their own ways, made history.
As the 40th anniversary of Title IX approaches, Millie West and Jim Jarrett are able to look back on careers that helped shape the lives of hundreds of athletes partly because of the landmark legislation that opened doors for women in athletics.
Jarrett spent 40 years as athletic director at Old Dominion, one of the first schools in the country to provide athletic scholarships for women. West came to William and Mary in 1959 and served 50 years as a teacher, coach, administrator, fundraiser and general instigator for women's athletics.
"It was easy for me to get in there and fight until the end, because I thought it was the right thing to do," West said recently. "The charge was part of my fabric. I had to do it."
Jarrett and West were on the front lines of a movement that has seen a quantum leap in women's athletics that was unfathomable to previous generations.
In 1971-72, more than 12 times as many boys as girls played high school sports — 3.66 million boys, compared to 294,000 girls, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. By 2010, nearly 3.2 million girls played high school sports, compared to 4.4 million boys.
The number of women playing varsity sports in college totaled 29,972 in 1971-72, compared to 170,384 men. Women's athletic budgets were two percent of men's budgets, according to the National Women's Law Center. By 2009, the number of women competing at the college level was 186,460, compared to 249,307 men.
"It's easier now for people to take great credit for stands that have become commonplace, but Jim and Millie stepped in at a time when there weren't a lot of people advocating for women's athletics," said Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager, who has known and worked with both for years. "They were among the first to provide the kind of opportunities for women that a lot of people take for granted today. I think it's important to recognize that they were kind of trailblazers."
Evidence of West's and Jarrett's impacts are scattered around their respective campuses, and not just with structures that bear their names.
The three women's basketball national championship banners hanging from the rafters of Old Dominion's Constant Center are a reflection of Jarrett's commitment, not to mention the program's record 17 consecutive conference titles, and accompanying NCAA tournament appearances.
The state-of-the-art Powhatan Sports Complex, which opened in 2008, befits a field hockey program that's won a record nine NCAA titles and has the most successful coach in Division I history, Beth Anders.
"This is the only place I ever wanted to coach," said Anders, who will lead the Lady Monarchs in her 30th and final season this fall.
At William and Mary, the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center, which also houses the women's college tennis Hall of Fame, has aged well despite being 17 years old. It stands as a tribute to the passion of a woman whose teams won 90 percent of their matches and who worked tirelessly with another sporting pioneer — the late Mark McCormack, W&M Class of 1950 and founder of global representation firm IMG — to provide a suitable home for the school's tennis program and for community tennis patrons.
West's work with the Wightman Cup — the biennial U.S.-Great Britain women's tennis matches of the 1980s — and an annual golf fundraiser netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for Tribe women's athletics through the years. Even W&M's baseball home, Plumeri Park, is in part a product of her fundraising and organizational efforts with Tribe bigfoot alum and finance executive Joe Plumeri.
"She probably embodies the impact of Title IX in intercollegiate athletics," W&M athletic director Terry Driscoll said of West. "She was one of the trailblazers, because she was not only doing things on the campus here in Williamsburg, but across Virginia and across the country. She is an extraordinary example of one of the people who was on the cutting edge.
"When she started, Title IX wasn't even implemented. When it first was passed, there wasn't a lot of energy behind it. When the energy came in, she was right there at the edge because she had been pushing the boulder uphill before things really started to hit."
Title IX becomes law
Title IX was a small part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. President Richard Nixon signed it into law on June 23, 1972, four months after his historic trip to China and 10 weeks before 11 Israeli athletes were captured and killed by an Arab terrorist group at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
The bill crossed Nixon's desk just six days after a handful of men were caught burglarizing Democratic National Committee headquarters in a D.C. office complex across town called the Watergate. It was later discovered that he signed Title IX on the same day he spoke to his chief of staff about the possibility of using the CIA to thwart the FBI's investigation into the Watergate break-in.
Title IX consists of only 37 words that are as powerful as they are open-ended: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
The bill originally was authored by U.S. representatives Patsy Mink from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, and Edith Green, a 10-term Congresswoman from Oregon noted for her work on education. In fact, Title IX was later renamed thePatsy T. MinkEqual Opportunity in Education Act.
Birch Bayh from Indiana was its primary Senate sponsor and introduced the bill in Congress. Bayh also worked on other legislation related to equal rights for women, based on his upbringing and his relationship with his wife, Marvella, whom he considered his partner and equal.
When Nixon signed the bill, most of his remarks were about what he thought its effects would be on busing and desegregation. Bayh believed its primary impact would be on educational opportunities for women. Few saw its potential in sports, particularly since the bill didn't mention the word "athletics."
"I was aware of it almost immediately," West said. "I got on a soapbox about it all the time."
West, from a small, northwest Georgia burg called Cedartown, arrived at William and Mary in 1959. She taught swimming and tennis and coached the Mermettes, the school's synchronized swimming team. She eventually started the swimming team and coached the women's tennis team to a 208-28-2 record and numerous national rankings.
In 1969, she became women's athletic director, serving 17 years until the men's and women's athletic departments merged under the late John Randolph. Though she technically retired in 1991, she continued to work on special projects and raise money for the athletic department. She's been feted and recognized numerous times by the school, most recently when the tennis courts behind William and Mary Hall were named in her honor.
West's genteel, Southern nature masked a deep competitive streak, whether it was playing and coaching or seeking funds and opportunities. Even now, at age 77, her eyes sparkle and her voice gains intensity as she recalls the frustrations and battles.
"I didn't slam any doors behind me," she said. Snaking her hand through the air in front of her, she added, "I worked my way through the administration and the proper channels."
That didn't mean she was always successful.
"I made a lot of enemies," she said. "I took on unpopular things, but I wasn't afraid. I was too stupid to be afraid."
Jarrett came to Old Dominion in 1967 as an associate professor of health and physical education. Three years later, he replaced Bud Metheny as athletic director and had a green light from school president Dr. Al Rollins.
After graduating from Southern Illinois, Jarrett had coached junior high sports and worked as a local tennis pro in Decatur, Ill., where he said he was frustrated by the scant support and competitive avenues for talented women athletes. His mother was an avid sports fan and routinely told him that there were few athletic and educational opportunities for women when she grew up.
Title IX, Jarrett wrote in an email response, "was the vehicle to use to enhance financial support for women's sports." Without federal legislation, he wrote, "that support may not have happened or been postponed by many years."
Jarrett was socially conscious, but also stubbornly independent.
"He didn't want anyone coming into his program telling him what to do, so he said, I'm going to do the right thing up front so that nobody comes in here and tells me what to do," said former ODU associate athletic director Mikki Bailes, who spent almost 29 years working alongside Jarrett before retiring in 2003.
West and Jarrett worked in settings that made it possible to fight for and to implement their ideals. Athletics have never been the tail that wagged the dog at William and Mary, which had a history of women in sports from intramural and club levels to intercollegiate competition.
Old Dominion, originally a satellite campus for William and Mary, had a Division II athletic program that eventually moved up to Division I in the late 1970s. The absence of a football program — ODU shelved its program from the 1940s until 2009 — also removed the attendant testosterone and resistance that often inhibited advancement and opportunities for women at other institutions.
Jarrett, whose name is affixed to the school's athletic administration building, decided on a program of selective excellence that first began with women's basketball and later field hockey. ODU was the first school in the state to offer scholarships to women. Former women's coach and ODU alum Wendy Larry was among the first to receive aid, and Pam Parsons was hired in 1974 with the understanding that she could win a national title with the support she was receiving.
"He was a pioneer," Larry said. "He had a vision, specifically for women's basketball, he had a vision that he was going to be the best program in the country and he went after it."
Jarrett and Bailes worked in tandem. Jarrett hired Bailes, then Mikki Flowers, as the field hockey coach in 1975. She also taught physical education and later became ODU's first women's lacrosse coach and the first advisor to the sailing team.
When Bailes became associate athletic director and Jarrett's right hand, she recommended Anders as field hockey coach. Anders, then a high school coach in Pennsylvania, was a world-class player who eventually won a bronze medal with the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. Jarrett permitted Anders to continue her playing career while she coached; in fact, he encouraged it, believing it would elevate the profile of the program and school.
"Things weren't given to us," Anders said. "Money wasn't thrown at us. It wasn't about that. What was thrown at us were people you could sit down and talk to and build a program. They wanted to be good, so there were a lot of conversations and interest and commitment to being good. It was a lot of: Let's try this, or what about this, and we'd try things. It worked for us.
"There were some fights," she added with a chuckle, "but they were all about working toward the same goal."
Bumps in the road
Title IX's life has been marked by fights, as well as unintended consequences. Though record numbers of men and women compete in college athletics today, dozens of men's athletic teams have been cut within the past 30 years as schools attempt to comply with the law.
The Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1979 issued a policy interpretation that included a three-prong test to gauge whether institutions were in compliance. Schools had to meet one of the following criteria:
•Show that the percentage of women athletes is roughly the same as the percentage of undergraduate women in the general student body;
•Demonstrate that it is steadily increasing athletic opportunities for women;
•Show that it is meeting the athletic interests and abilities of women on campus.
Critics of the three-prong test argue that Title IX has become more about accounting than opportunity. They say that Olympic men's sports — wrestling programs were particularly hard hit — have been cut in order to meet percentage levels, especially as more women attend college.
Advocates of the test counter that Title IX was never intended to cut men's sports. They often point to football programs as an outsized drag on scholarship and participation measures, since there is no women's equivalent sport. Rather than rein in football roster sizes and expenses, they argue, schools take the path of less resistance and simply eliminate men's Olympic sports.
One irony of Title IX is that it actually limited William and Mary's overall women's athletic program. The Tribe fielded as many as four levels of competitive teams, from varsity to JV to club and sometimes even developmental teams. Women, and men, played at their appropriate skill levels.
"The beauty of it," West said, "was we didn't build the program because of Title IX. It was really because the students demanded it. They came in with backgrounds in sports, they were active and they demanded it."
Once Title IX was passed, and especially after the policy interpretation and compliance measures were implemented, it all but ended JV and club-level college teams.
Despite its history of providing opportunities for women, William and Mary also had its own Title IX controversy. In the winter of 1991, the athletic department announced that it would eliminate four sports as a means to save and re-allocate money: women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, and wrestling.
Under threat of lawsuit and after a pledge from an anonymous donor, the school reversed course. Women's basketball and the swimming programs were reinstated, while wrestling, unable to generate sufficient funds, was eliminated.
The kicker is that West wasn't altogether opposed to eliminating women's basketball. Though a fierce advocate of opportunity, she also believes that if you're going to compete at the highest level possible, championships should be the goal.
Tribe women's basketball struggled historically and had by far the largest budget of any women's sport. West, and others, believed the money could be re-allocated to aid chronically underfunded programs that were regionally and nationally competitive.
But as the flagship team sport for women's college athletics, basketball was practically sacrosanct. Supporters fought the sacrifice of any opportunity, regardless of intent.
West called that one of the most difficult episodes of her tenure. She was pleased that the sports were reinstated, but knew that she had irritated many women's sports advocates.
That episode also shed light on the divisions that existed within the women's sports movement, something that Old Dominion's athletic brain trust experienced.
"When we first started," Bailes said, "we weren't viewed in a real positive light by a lot of women in athletics. A lot of women weren't really interested in recruiting and giving scholarships and doing what the men were doing. They wanted to maintain the model that we had. The truth was that many people resented us."
Women's college athletics in the 1970s were governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). The NCAA had no desire to administer women's sports and actually challenged the legality of Title IX in 1976.
But with federal clout behind it and the possibility to make money, the NCAA decided to sponsor championships for women's sports beginning in the early 1980s. ODU won back-to-back AIAW national titles in basketball (1979-80), but eventually cast its lot with the NCAA.
In fact, ODU hosted the first NCAA women's Final Four, at Scope in 1982, while there was a competing AIAW tournament, the organization's last. Given its prominence within women's athletics, Old Dominion was viewed by some as helping put the AIAW out of business.
Bailes relayed the story of Jarrett sitting in a national meeting of women's athletic administrators, discussing the merits and criticisms of moving away from AIAW governance to the NCAA model. One AIAW advocate said, women just don't cheat. To which Jarrett replied, the last time I checked, there were just as many women in prison as men.
"It took a long while for women to accept that model of competition and what the men were doing," Bailes said. "We were women and we were supposed to do it another way."
West said there were tradeoffs both in adopting the NCAA model and when the W&M men's and women's athletic departments merged.
"It was good in that it gave us an avenue for competition," she said. "It was good in that it required us to enforce some equality. It was bad in that it took away some autonomy for the women to take care of themselves."
West, Jarrett, Bailes and others who remember the days before Title IX marvel at the progress made within women's athletics. They see sold-out arenas hosting women's Final Fours, sold-out stadia for women's World Cup soccer, all manner of coaching, training and opportunity for young girls to pursue athletic dreams.
But they also know that none of it came without a price. Despite the progress made, vigilance and effort remain critical components of the women's sports movement.
According to the U.S. Government's Equity in Athletics database, women received 43 percent of athletic aid in Football Bowl Championship Subdivision (Division I-A) schools and 45 percent of athletic aid in FBS schools (Division I-AA) in 2010. Total expenses for men's sports in I-A were $2.6 billion, compared to $1.1 billion for women's sports. In I-AA, women's expenses were $487 million, compared to $752 million for men's teams.
"It upsets me that it's still not what it should be," West said. "It's up to the administrators of every department to be more than correct. Don't just meet minimum standards, be equitable for all programs. That's something we have to continue to fight for."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun