About the time that Kisha Ford was born in Baltimore 17 years ago, Agnus Berenato was a senior on her high school basketball team in Gloucester, N.J. Berenato wanted to continue playing in college, but most schools weren't giving athletic scholarships to women.
"I went and played in Europe," Berenato said. "That was just a freak thing. Someone asked me if I wanted to. I knew I wasn't going to go to college because there weren't any scholarships and we didn't have any money."
Seventeen years later, as head coach of the Georgia Tech women's basketball team, Berenato signed Kisha Ford to a full scholarship to play basketball for the Yellow Jackets. A senior at Bryn Mawr, Ford is arguably the best female high school basketball player in Baltimore.
However, Ford's view of her place in history is more pragmatic than idealistic.
"I look at basketball as like a job," she said. "If I was to work and pay for college, it's like I'm working on the court to pay for college. You're working really hard to get an education at a top school that will pay top dollar for you."
Today, young girls can run, jump, shoot baskets, swim and aspire to be athletes with national and international attention, just as boys do.
But their chances to spin their athletic abilities into professional opportunities -- in playing, coaching or sports administration -- still are limited.
The chances for women in athletics never have been better, thanks to Title IX, the 20-year-old legislation that prevents gender discrimination by educational institutions.
Last year, nearly 1.9 million young women took part in high school sports across the country, according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. That's six times the number of high school girls who played sports 20 years ago.
Of the 864 schools in the NCAA, only a couple don't offer intercollegiate sports for women. There are also some professional opportunities available for women athletes, mostly in tennis and golf.
"It's no longer an odd thing," said Peggy Kellers, director of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports. "It's not that tomboy image that was perceived 25 years ago. There is indeed a great respect for the girls and women and for their abilities as athletes."
But there's still a long way to go.
* The number of boys who take part in high school sports, an estimated 5.2 million, is more than double the number of girls.
* The NCAA did a study on gender equity in March that found women made up only 31 percent of the average athletic population, even though they account for more than 50 percent of the overall student population at Division I schools.
* Locally, the University of Maryland has been forced to raise scholarships to women athletes by 6 percent and address inequities in locker room facilities and in secretarial and clerical services as a part of a Title IX complaint filed against it in 1990.
* Nationally, women received 30 percent of scholarship money, 23 percent of travel and game budgets and 17 percent of recruiting funds, according to recent surveys in the Chronicle of Higher Education and USA Today.
"We're talking tens of millions of dollars that just haven't been available to women," said Ellen Vargyas, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, which has pursued a number of Title IX complaints.
The surveys, covering the 1990-91 academic year, indicate that athletic departments across the country spend twice as much on men's programs as on women's.
At Virginia, for instance, the athletic department spent three times more money on men's basketball recruiting than on women's basketball recruiting. However, the men's basketball team brought in just over $1 million in ticket receipts, compared with about $133,000 for the women's program in 1991-92.
"It's a real travesty that inequalities in athletic education are overlooked," said Mariah Burton Nelson, a former basketball player at Stanford and author of "Are We Winning Yet: How Women Are Changing Sports and Sports Are Changing Women."
"If only a third of the kids in the English classes were female and females were not offered as many opportunities to study English, there would be lots of hullabaloo about it," Nelson said.
A true 'old boy' network
Once their playing careers end, the future for women who wish to continue in athletics isn't promising.
Women have a hard time finding jobs as athletic administrators and coaches. Among the 49 public high schools in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Harford counties, only six have women running the athletic departments.
Anne Arundel and Carroll counties have no female athletic directors.
In Baltimore County, however, 17 of the 21 public high schools have separate departments for boys and girls, and the girls departments are all run by women.
Most of the women who hold positions of authority in the front offices of the four major professional leagues -- major league baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL -- are in marketing, accounting or public relations slots.
Susan O'Malley, president of the Washington Bullets, and Elaine Steward, assistant general manager of the Boston Red Sox, have achieved positions long closed to women, but neither O'Malley nor Steward makes decisions that affect the on-field product of their team.
Linda Bogdan of the NFL's Buffalo Bills and Deborah Wright of the NHL's San Jose Sharks are part-time scouts, but they are the only women in player evaluation roles among the four major professional leagues.
Three women own controlling or equal shares of teams in the major professional leagues. Georgia Frontiere of the Los Angeles Rams and Sonia Scurfield of the Calgary Flames each assumed their shares of the teams when their husbands died. Marge Schott owns controlling interest of the Cincinnati Reds.
Only two Division I-A universities with major college football teams -- Washington and Michigan State -- have women running the overall athletic department, including football. Washington's Barbara Hedges and Michigan State's Merrily Dean Baker have been hired in the last year.
And even though there are more females playing sports than there were 15 years ago, and more coaching jobs available in women's sports, there is a smaller percentage of females coaching women's teams. In 1992, 48.3 percent of women's coaches were female, compared with 58.2 percent in 1978.
Why are women so slow to make gains in sports?
"A lot of it is that the women in today's era didn't grow up in the athletic scene," said George S. King Jr., 64, who retired in June as athletic director at Purdue. "I played in grade school and junior high and high school and college. It was kind of a natural progression into coaching. I'm not sure women have had that kind of opportunity yet."
King also contends that women aren't applying for jobs. "It seems to me that women are either disenchanted with athletics or they find other things," he said.
Women's advocates dispute that.
"We have a tendency as employers to hire people who are like us," said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation. "We are less likely to be able to hire blacks and women if we are white males. That's a situation we have to overcome.
"I think guys have to realize that affirmative action for both racial and gender minorities in this business means creating the supportive environment," said Lopiano, who was women's athletic director at Texas for 16 years.
The quest for gender equity
Depending upon who's doing the talking, gender equity is either the savior or the curse of college athletics.
Spurred by the NCAA's study last March, plus a Supreme Court ruling last February that victims of Title IX discrimination could seek monetary compensation, athletic officials around the country are talking about bringing women's athletic programs more closely in line with men's programs.
The Big Ten, for instance, recently adopted a policy requiring member schools to have a 60-40 ratio of male-to-female athletes by 1997. Other conferences are likely to follow suit.
But how will equity be achieved? Will schools need to add more women's sports to increase their numbers, or will they cut existing men's programs?
"The level of gender equity will be negotiated, like everything else," said University of Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger. "The part that's a little bit frightening is that there are no resources in which to create equity. Equity has to be carved out of the program as it exists now, certainly at Maryland, where there are no resources."
Maryland will need to find resources of some sort to settle a Title IX complaint filed in 1990 and settled three weeks ago.
The Office of Civil Rights of the Education Department found Maryland largely in compliance with Title IX guidelines, but found discrepancies in seven of 13 areas it examined.
As a result, the athletic department must increase new scholarships to women by 6 percent starting next year, and also must beef up locker-room areas for women, as well as provide clerical and secretarial support for women's teams that is comparable to the men's teams.
One of the battlegrounds in the gender area is college football, where most Division I-A schools carry as many as 95 football players on scholarship, a number that is not matched by an equivalent women'ssport.
"It can't possibly be equal," said Dr. Suzanne Tyler, Maryland's senior associate athletic director. "There's no sport like football for women. None. To be completely equitable, we would have football and women's programs and nothing else. That's not right, either.
"What sport for women brings in the dollars? Nada," Tyler said. "Let's suppose we knocked out all men's sports and said we'll just have women's programs. Well, we couldn't be self-supporting."
According to the Women's Sports Foundation, only 11 percent of all NCAA institutions that offer football generate enough money to cover football costs and have profits left over for other sports.
"This 'football making money' crap is crap," said Lopiano. "The men have created a system where big-time sports is wearing chinchilla warm-ups and sex equity is getting chinchilla warm-ups for women. What might happen is that some schools may have to really suffer because they have to get rid of a full-time videotape editor [to edit football films]. It's crazy."
Tomorrow: Women can juggle coaching careers and family, given the opportunity.
Title IX complaints
Complaints alleging Title IX violations in athletics, received by the U.S. Department of Education:
Fiscal year.. .. .. .. .. .. Complaints
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 259
1981.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 155
1982 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..67
1983 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..124
1984 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 44
1985 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 64
1986 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 71
1987 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 38
1988 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 43
1989 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 85
1990 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 39
1991 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 36
Total .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1,025
Total of all Title IX complaints, athletic and non-athletic, from 1980-91, is 5,984.