Illustration by Katie Baneck | For The Post

Illustration by Katie Baneck | For The Post

On the basis of sex

Published December 1, 2022

Title IX 50th anniversary highlights growth at Ohio

By Ashley Beach | For The Post

Women in sports have not been afforded the same opportunities as men.

In 1972, the U.S. Department of Education passed an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. The amendment, called Title IX, stated that "no person in the U.S. 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 legislation created drastic changes for women and 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of its passing.

"Here we are at the 50th anniversary of Title IX and it has been such impactful legislation," said Julie Cromer, Ohio athletics director. "There are a handful of women who are around, who are still with us on this earth, who were instrumental in pushing that legislation through. We talked to them about what they envisioned for women at the time and where we are now, it's kind of beyond our wildest imaginations."

OU is required to comply with Title IX at all levels. From providing equal facilities for female students to hiring female staff and reporting sexual misconduct, according to Kerri Griffin, the director and Title IX coordinator at OU.

Title IX ensures women have a seat at the table, including in intercollegiate athletics.

Compliance is decided through 10 factors. Whether the selection of sports and levels of competition effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of members of both sexes; the provision of equipment and supplies; the scheduling of games and practice time; travel and per diem allowance; opportunity to receive coaching and academic tutoring; assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors; provision of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; provision of housing and dining facilities and services; publicity.

Over the past 50 years, Ohio has struggled to meet compliance. However, it continues to make slow progress.

WICA era

OU had women's athletics before Title IX through the recreation department and later the Women's Intercollegiate Athletics association.

Former field hockey head coach Kim Brown holds a newspaper featuring the main headline about a 1-10 football season and a smaller headline about a women's cross country win on Oct. 24, 2022.

Jesse Jarrold-Grapes | Photo Editor

Former field hockey head coach Kim Brown holds a newspaper featuring the main headline about a 1-10 football season and a smaller headline about a women's cross country win on Oct. 24, 2022.

Catherine Brown was a coach and a professor at OU. She coached the field hockey team from 1968 to 1971 and founded the women's lacrosse and track and field programs. She also advocated for better treatment for women in sports at OU and drafted a letter to OU administration requesting more paid time off and better conditions for female coaches, according to former Ohio coach Kim Brown.

In 1970, the women's athletics budget was $913, according to the year's financial report. After the ICA and WICA merger, the budget increased.

Coaches and athletes still had to put their own money toward travel, lodging and equipment without reimbursement. The 1973 edition of the Athena yearbook estimated that Ohio provided an operating budget of $500 to the women's basketball team and all that remained at the end of the season was 17 cents. What the budget didn't show was the $1647.27 that the coaches and athletes contributed.

The overall women's athletics budget bumped to $18,000 during the 1973-74 school year and then to $48,000 in the 1974-75 year. However, the budget change didn't solve all the problems. Despite the many additions to the WICA program in recent years, the athletic department still wasn't equitable, according to the 1975 Title IX report.

Peggy Pruitt became the Women's Athletic Coordinator in 1975. Pruitt's job resembled that of an athletic director but for women's sports. She was also the field hockey coach from 1975 to 1977 and the tennis coach from 1975 to 1982.

Even after Title IX was adopted, there were still issues within the athletic department. Male department members pushed back because they did not want to give up part of their budget for the women's teams.

"Some people are always more willing to do things in a new way and some people like the old way," Pruitt said. "I think anytime you add something new, people are afraid you're going to take away something old. Especially there was a little apprehension on the part of the men's coaches."

When Title IX was implemented, Julie Zdanowicz was an athlete under Pruitt and Kim Brown. Zdanowicz said that she could not see or feel the effects of Title IX on campus as it pertained to athletics.

"What I mean by that is, for example, we still had to buy our own cleats to play field hockey and lacrosse. That wasn't covered," Zdanowicz said.

Zdanowicz didn't study under the recreation umbrella, so she was not as involved in athletics affairs. However, she understood that the treatment of male and female athletes was not equal. The women did not receive proper equipment and did not have an adequate locker room. Male sports, such as football, received everything they needed.

"We knew we had to perform and show what we were capable of even though we didn't have all the resources we should have," Zdanowicz said.

There were 15 special talent awards for the nine female teams and 120 scholarships for the 10 male teams in 1975. Most of the women played without reward, even though some had won state championships.

Kim Brown took over the field hockey program in 1978. Even then, the equipment for women still lacked and she had to make her some of her own out of dowel rods and vinyl.

Inequities still extended to travel during Kim Brown's tenure. The team traveled to away games in station wagons that had the back hatches tied shut to stay closed. The safety of the vehicles was so questionable that Kim Brown took out extra insurance in case of an accident.

The women faced more challenges once they got onto the road. They had $4 to $6 for food during the trip, which was unheard of for men's sports. The 1975 review also found that the meals budget for men's teams totaled $86,200 and the women's budget totaled $14,850.

"Sometimes, not when I was coaching there, but before I was there, the students would ask the cafeterias to pack them a packed lunch so that they could have food because they didn't have any money to pay for food on the trips," Kim Brown said.

However, the equal opportunities programs guidelines state that "a university is not required to make equal expenditures for men and for women, but it must provide 'equal athletic opportunities for members of both sexes.'" It didn't matter how much money was given to the women for anything.

NCAA era

Inequities were bandaged when women joined the NCAA and Mid-American Conference in 1981.

Kim Brown said that field hockey was given home and away uniform tops with reversible wraparound skirts. Other programs were awarded true uniforms as well and no one had to wear their physical education uniforms any longer.

The regulations on how many athletes could be rostered on the travel squad became more equitable due to the new rules. However, the accommodations on the trips were still less than.

"If men can sleep one to a bed and have a buffet, then women shouldn't be sleeping four to a bed and eating at McDonald's and that's how things were, and that didn't change when we went into the MAC," Kim Brown said.

Another thing that didn't change was the quality of the outdoor sports' playing surfaces. Kim Brown said she and the other women's coaches often did their own maintenance on their fields because OU neglected to. OU administration became aware of one of the rundown surfaces after a trip to the field hockey field, now known as the Mill intramural fields.

"I was always thankful, (and) I don't know why this happened, (but) we had a home game and some big, important people from campus came down like the provost and a couple of people… and there was a huge dust storm on the field, it happened every day, but I was so happy that it happened so those people could see how miserable it was (to play there)," Kim Brown said. "After that, we got a little better care of the field."

Despite less-than-ideal conditions, Ohio's women thrived in the 1980s. The field hockey team won a share of the first MAC title in 1981. However, they were given a paperweight for their accomplishment because there was not enough money to purchase rings. The men's basketball team won a MAC title that same academic year and were given rings.

Ohio was the runner-up in the first-ever MAC Championship for softball in 1982, the women's basketball team took home a MAC championship in 1986 and field hockey collected its second championship in 1987.

OU conducted the first Title IX review of the 1980s in 1982 and followed up with another in 1987.

Illustration by Katie Baneck

The 1987 report applauded the improvement of the laundry services, quality of practice equipment, protective equipment for certain sports, availability of service and professionalism of equipment staff.

Other areas of improvement included transportation and accommodations on the road. The committee found that the department had implemented adequate travel standards for meals and hotels for all teams.

The committee learned that the field hockey team was playing on an illegal field. Every school that played Ohio that season complained about the poorly maintained field. The field also lacked water facilities, including drinking water and toilets. The softball field was also due for repairs at the time.

Locker rooms were a major issue. The committee "concluded that the ICA (had) made no attempt to eliminate this 'significant disparity.' There (had) been no changes in locker room assignments since 1982," according to the 1987 report. The report also stated that all but one locker room had its original carpet and lockers.

Chris Nichols Allwine was a member of the women's cross country and track teams from 1987 to 1991. She was an All-MAC nominee all four years. Allwine held the 10,000 meter record when she graduated and was inducted into the Kermit Blosser Ohio Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.

The women's cross country team had tremendous success during Allwine's career. The team, led by Mo Banton, won the team MAC Championship from 1987 to 1992. However, their success did not exempt them from equity issues.

"Our locker room was not usable," Allwine said. "I know the guys, their locker room was in much better shape than ours. I remember going in there for a couple of team meetings and thinking 'oh my gosh, they actually have a clean locker room.'"

Allwine believes that the women's cross country and track programs were afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The only major issue was the locker room.

"We would go in (our locker room) to use the restroom and that was it," Allwine said. "We would not shower in there… very rarely would we change in there just because it was pretty rundown."

OU conducted another review in 1994. The report found that many of the issues from the previous two decades of reviews stood, including equipment disparities, coaching equivalency, locker rooms and travel accommodations.

The coach to athlete ratio for female sports stood out when compared to male sports. Men's basketball had an athlete to coach ratio of two to one, while field hockey had a much different ratio.

"The disparity between the woman who was the field hockey coach, who had 18 athletes and no assistant coach, as opposed to the (men's) basketball team, where they had three or four different assistant coaches and some other people in addition to that," said Jessie Roberson, former faculty athletics representative. "The argument that's always made is that it was in response to market forces."

Other coach-related issues popped up as well. All male coaches were on multi-year contracts, but not all women. Also, several male coaches received courtesy cars as perks. One female coach had a courtesy car, according to the 1994 Title IX review committee's report.

"That was part of the university's contract with the car dealers," Roberson said. "They tried to argue that they shouldn't have to consider that in considering the equities of how they were paying men versus women."

Former faculty athletics representative and professor Jessie Roberson poses for a portrait on Oct. 24, 2022. Roberson was a member of the Title IX review committee of 1994.

Jesse Jarrold-Grapes | Photo Editor

Former faculty athletics representative and professor Jessie Roberson poses for a portrait on Oct. 24, 2022. Roberson was a member of the Title IX review committee of 1994.

The locker room situation still hadn't been solved. There were two teams that shared locker rooms in the 1990s: field hockey and softball. The report reflected the dinginess that Allwine had experienced and the insufficient security and amenities of the locker rooms.

The women knew they were jipped, too. "Several coaches of women's sports expressed concern about whether they or their programs were taken seriously by the department or the rest of the university community; there has been a markedly higher turnover rate among women's head coaches than for men's head coaches," according to the 1994 report.

Schools were supposed to be Title IX compliant by the end of the 1970s, but the women were still feeling uneasy. Higher education institutes had pushed the idea that they had worked toward equity, but it had been 20 years and schools were still not in compliance.

"That was a point in time where men in college athletic administration would hold press conferences to announce that they were going to break the law less," Roberson said. "I will never forget the commissioner of the Big Ten having a press conference to announce that all of the schools were going to aim for 60-40 distribution in scholarship allocation, which is essentially an announcement that you're going to break the law less."

2000s to now

Ohio did its best to uphold the standards of Title IX as it moved into the 2000s, even though that meant it had to cut programs.

On Jan. 25, 2007, OU announced that it would drop the men's indoor and outdoor track and field, women's lacrosse and men's swim programs after the 2007-08 year. The decision to cut lacrosse was made due to financial reasons.

It wasn't the first time women's lacrosse was on the chopping block. The program was brought back to the varsity level in 1999, according to a previous Post report, but due to the sport's high financial commitment, it was dropped not even eight years later.

The men's programs were cut to comply with Title IX requirements.

"We are not in the financial position to add a women's program and therefore must take alternative measures to continue our commitment to compliance with this federal statue," former athletics director Kirby Horcutt said to the Associated Press at the time of the announcement.

The athletes that were dropped only knew once it was announced. It caused a stir because the choice was seen as a misinterpretation of Title IX.

"At the time that decision was made, I believe Title IX was misinterpreted," Allwine said. "The intention was to bring equality to women's sports to have just as nice facilities and opportunities, but not at the cost of men's programs. There was definitely misinterpretation taking place at that time."

Ohio has turned a new leaf since those cuts, though. It has narrowed in on the 10 requirements of Title IX and has increased its commitment to equity.

Coach Ali Johnstone drawing up plays against Appalachian State University at Pruitt Field on October 28, 2022.

Jack Tatham | For The Post

Coach Ali Johnstone drawing up plays against Appalachian State University at Pruitt Field on October 28, 2022.

"The sophistication of our operations around our female sports programs has evolved quite a bit," Cromer said. "You see more operationally a more professionalized approach to their support… more business-oriented professionalized mature development of services around them, whether it's communications or marketing, or even internally and in some of our career development, it's just more sophisticated."

Cromer was hired in 2019 as the first female athletic director at Ohio. She played an integral role in realigning the content department, which has allowed Ohio to give more publicity to its female athletes.

Publicity was one of the largest disparities recognized in each Title IX review of the 1980s and 1990s. There has been an explosion in media coverage, marketing and fan engagement for women's collegiate sports over the past ten years, but overall, the landscape of women's sports has changed dramatically since Title IX was implemented.

"Not only in terms of the number of opportunities for young women to come through their collegiate experience and be scholarship athletes at the varsity level, but also for the culture around women's sports, the support and the infrastructure around women's sports," Cromer said.

Coach Ali Johnstone has witnessed that change. Johnstone played field hockey at Ohio from 1998 to 2002 and has been both an assistant and head coach of the program.

Illustration by Katie Baneck

Johnstone is happy to see that athletics has taken steps toward equity. Her team no longer has to board vans at 5:30 a.m. to practice at a high school in West Virginia like she did because Ohio has a proper playing surface now.

"I don't know if (today's athletes) truly know the transformation we went through," Johnstone said.

The idea of an "Adidas Christmas" didn't exist when Johnstone was an athlete. The team wasn't given loads of apparel and shoes. Johnstone recalled that if she and her teammates were to tear their shoe, they had to tape it together for the rest of the season.

"We didn't have that," Johnstone said. "That didn't exist. It was green and gray: green cotton shorts and gray cotton T-shirts that were leftovers from the football team, which I thought was awesome because I had never been given a free T-shirt before (as an athlete). We had a sweat suit and maybe a rain jacket or something. Now, it's like running shoes, turf shoes, (etc.) which are good. I mean we needed all that stuff back then."

The athletics department has also become more unified over the years. No teams are stuck on their own because they all work together.

"We have support from marketing, we have support from sports information, we have support from academics (and) we have support from the medical staff. It feels more team-oriented. For all teams," Johnstone said. "Whereas before, it seemed like we had support but it was only here and there. Whereas now, I can just walk down the hall (in the office) and just talk to someone about something and they have ideas and I don't have to beg them for ideas. It feels more holistic."

However, change hasn't been easy, and more issues have presented themselves as time has marched on.

"I think the challenge for leaders at this time is to continue to push the evolution and adaptation of culture to match the spirit and intention of title IX," Cromer said.

Ohio has grown since the passage of Title IX, but Ohio athletic administrators like Cromer agree there's still more to be done. The standards of equity have changed since 1972 and they are constantly evolving. The administration and all U.S. athletes must continue pushing for change.

"I think we have vastly improved in terms of opportunity and the quality of opportunity for young women and yet, as an equity measure, we continue to have room to grow," Cromer said.

AUTHOR: Ashley Beach
EDITORS: Hannah Campbell and Alex Imwalle
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jesse Jarrold-Grapes and Jack Tatham
WEB DEVELOPMENT: Anastasia Carter