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When College of Iowa girls’s basketball star Caitlin Clark drained a 3-pointer towards the College of Michigan on Feb. 15, 2024, she secured the NCAA girls’s scoring document.

Announcers famous that Clark had surpassed Kelsey Plum’s 3,527 points. However few added that there was nonetheless yet another Division I girls’s scoring title remaining.

That one belonged to protect Lynette Woodard, who scored 3,649 factors whereas taking part in for the College of Kansas from 1978 to 1981. Her document was set earlier than the NCAA provided girls’s championships, when the Affiliation for Intercollegiate Athletics for Girls, or AIAW, was in cost.

When Clark surpassed Woodard’s AIAW milestone on Feb. 28, 2024, within the fourth quarter of a recreation towards the College of Minnesota, it opened up one other likelihood to revisit this buried piece of sport historical past.

The AIAW launched in 1972. Inside a decade it was greater than the NCAA, with practically 1,000 member schools and universities. It sponsored 19 sports activities in three divisions, was the only real group for ladies’s intercollegiate athletics and the one one led by girls. And the NCAA destroyed it by means of what SUNY Cortland sports activities administration professor Lindsey Darvin described as a “hostile takeover.”

As a scholar of sport, gender and American culture, I research the AIAW as a key second in sports activities historical past that has been buried, and I’m presently writing a e book exploring its philosophy, influence and legacy.

In any historical past of girls’s sports activities within the U.S., you’ll hear rather a lot about Title IX, the federal regulation dictating that feminine faculty athletes should obtain equal alternatives in sports activities.

However you’ll not often hear concerning the AIAW, a sporting physique led by girls that basically modified intercollegiate sports activities. Its student-centered governance mannequin continues to resonate as faculty athletes chip away on the energy of the NCAA, whether or not it’s by means of the transfer portal or name, image and likeness deals.

Designed for ladies, by girls

All through the early a part of the twentieth century, feminine faculty college students participated in bodily training courses focused on health and wellness. There have been few alternatives for organized workforce sports activities.

By the Nineteen Sixties, nonetheless, girls college students demanded school-sponsored intercollegiate groups and championships like the lads had.

Women professors of physical education agreed.. However they’d watched the NCAA business mannequin of sport descend into exploitation and scandal underneath what historians have known as the “cynical fiction” of amateurism. Because the NCAA remained solely male, there was a possibility to create one thing totally different for ladies’s athletics.

The AIAW emerged from that momentum – an intercollegiate athletic governance group designed for and by girls, devoted to creating high-level competitors whereas sustaining deal with the well-being and training of student-athletes.

Beneath the AIAW, all groups and athletes have been supported equally, not singled out for his or her capability to generate income. They’d a proper to due course of, an appeals system and pupil representatives on native and nationwide committees. The group ran on dues from member faculties and ultimately some promoting and media contracts.

Girls’s athletic packages have been led by bodily educators turned coaches and directors. A few of the most well-known coaches in girls’s basketball obtained their begin underneath the AIAW, together with C. Vivian Stringer, Pat Summit and Tara VanDerveer, who just lately broke the all-time record for college basketball wins.

Along with Woodard, different notable AIAW gamers embody Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Nancy Lieberman and Lusia Harris, who was just lately the topic of an Oscar-winning documentary.

Young woman with short hair poses while dribbling a basketball and wearing a red, white and blue Team USA jersey.
After starring on the College of Kansas, Lynette Woodard went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, Crew USA and the WNBA.
Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images

Title IX backlash

There isn’t any doubt that Title IX, which was signed into law in 1972, had an enormous affect on the expansion of girls’s faculty sports activities, mandating that academic actions, together with athletics, needs to be the identical for women and men.

Congress handed Title IX simply earlier than the AIAW’s first championship season, and the regulation spurred requires extra equitable assets for ladies’s sports activities.

There was rapid backlash from male-dominated sporting organizations, together with the NCAA, which noticed the addition of girls’s sports activities as a loss for males’s sports activities. Walter Byers, then the NCAA’s government director, mentioned, “The possible doom of college sports is near.” One faculty soccer official told reporter Sally Jenkins that girls’s sports activities advocates have been attempting “to tear the shirts off our backs.”

Regardless of the fearmongering, faculty sports activities continued to thrive. Nonetheless, over the previous 50 years, though practically all faculties have been out of athletic compliance with Title IX, none has misplaced federal funding for violations. As Title IX scholar Sarah Fields has written, “With out punitive damages, the regulation is proscribed: it’s toothless.”

All alongside, change has come not from the regulation’s mere existence however from college students submitting complaints and lawsuits, and the dedication of directors to make use of the regulation to carve out and shield athletic alternatives for ladies. In the course of the Seventies, these directors have been nearly all within the AIAW.

The NCAA elbows its method in

By the late Seventies, the U.S. Division of Well being, Schooling, and Welfare had laid out clearer requirements for athletic compliance with Title IX.

Whereas the NCAA and AIAW weren’t topic to the regulation, their member establishments have been, and the 2 organizations’ efforts to collaborate failed. As an alternative, the NCAA, which had lengthy fought Title IX’s utility in athletics, modified course and set its sights on taking management of girls’s sports activities.

The NCAA provided girls’s championships in all three divisions for the primary time through the 1981-82 college yr. Leveraging all of its presumed legitimacy and monetary assets, the 75-year-old males’s athletic group offered all-expenses-paid women’s championships on the same weekends as the unpaid AIAW championships.

The technique labored. The AIAW misplaced vital members and ceased operations in mid-1982, even if girls athletes, coaches and directors preferred its educational model and leadership structure.

The NCAA made imprecise guarantees to assist girls’s athletics however refused to offer girls greater than token illustration on its governance boards. Girls student-athletes have been, for the primary time, led by a male-dominated governance group.

To today, institutional sexism remains entrenched in the NCAA.

Girls maintain solely 41.3% of head coaching positions for women’s teams and 23.9% of athletic director positions – roles that have been largely held by girls underneath the AIAW. A current gender fairness overview discovered that the group under-resourced nearly all of its women’s championships, a results of gender bias and its focus on making money.

The NCAA and its company companions would love you to imagine that their group is the be-all and end-all of school sports activities.

However the story of the AIAW – created by and for ladies, rejecting the crass commercialism of the NCAA and empowering student-athletes to talk up – presents concepts for a extra equitable future for school sports activities.

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