What does Title IX mean to you? Local coaches, administrators grateful for impact of 50-year-old legislation

·11 min read

Jun. 26—With 37 words, Title IX changed sports forever in 1972, ushering in a new era for women.

"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."

There were 300,000 women and girls playing sports at the high school in college level before the landmark legislation and more than 3 million by 2012 when the 40th anniversary of Title IX was celebrated. Today 44 percent of all collegiate athletes are women, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. That number was 15 percent before Title IX.

The 50th anniversary of Title IX was celebrated Thursday. Across the area, local college coaches, administrators and athletes were asked a simple question as the milestone approached: What does Title IX mean to you?

Bret Billhardt, Wittenberg Senior Associate Athletic Director

The Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association established a scholarship fund in the name of Dolores "Dee" Billhardt and awards six scholarships annually — one in each district in Ohio — to college-bound athletes.

My late Aunt, Dolores Billhardt, was a trailblazer for high school girl sports in the state of Ohio. She was named as an Assistant Commissioner with the OHSAA in 1972, making her the first female at that time to serve in such a position with the state of Ohio. At that time, the state of Ohio had no state tournament for girls sports, but that quickly changed as she led the charge in the following years to create eight state championships for girls sports by 1978.

Due to her untimely passing in 1988, I never got to truly know my aunt, but many in my family can attest that it has been my lifelong goal and passion to keep her namesake alive in the athletic administration world, especially in the state of Ohio. I have been blessed to be able to do so within the confines of the state lines for the last 12 years, first as the Assistant Executive Director of the NCAC and now as the Senior Associate AD at Wittenberg University, and plan to continue to carry on her legacy through the remainder of my career, wherever that may lead.

Joylynn Brown, Wright State Senior Associate AD, Senior Woman Administrator

One important change that has stemmed from Title IX is the requirement that every athletics department designate a senior woman administrator, representing the highest-ranking female in the department. It is significant that young women have a woman in a leadership role to model, and it is also important that the young men we work with see women in a position of power. I supervise men's sports as well as women's sports. Having day-to-day contact with student-athletes is a great opportunity for them to see I am as qualified and knowledgeable as my male counterparts. I want to show young women there is a place for them in a professional role in college athletics, coaching and administration. The more we have women in leadership roles, the more we can show everyone that we are equipped and good at it. I am often the only woman at the table in a meeting. Being able to use my voice and give my input is essential. Title IX has given me this seat at the table, and I am so grateful for the women who paved the way for all of us.

Teresa Clark, Cedarville faculty athletic representative and former head volleyball coach and Title IX coordinator

As I reflect on the impact and changes over the past fifty years since the passing of Title IX, I truly am amazed and grateful for the opportunities now given to female athletes.

I was a female high school student-athlete in the late 1960s when we had to purchase our own uniforms (T-shirts) for competition and provide our own transportation to games at other schools.

After graduating from high school, I experienced the immediate benefit of having uniforms and transportation as a college athlete. Financial scholarships were not offered then, but there was positive movement happening for female athletes.

My career path then put me into the high school coaching area, and I was grateful for the increasing amount of opportunities, funding and support I was seeing in my program as well as across all levels of women's athletics.

Finally, a move into the collegiate coaching level provided opportunities for recruiting and developing talented women student-athletes with a high level of athletic ability. The support, encouragement and priority placed on athletic programs by the institution was an outflow of the continued progression from Title IX.

I am thankful for how far women's athletics has come these past fifty years and for the continuing opportunities for women to grow, learn and experience the benefits of participating in sport!

Taylor Filzen, Dayton volleyball director of operations

Because of Title IX, my siblings and I were able to grow up with a mom who coached collegiate basketball. She has many mentors who were the first pioneers in women's sports, and we knew from a young age the tremendous opportunities we had as a result of those who came before us.

We played in the gym, sat on the bench and traveled with her teams, all while being impacted by countless strong, female student-athletes ... our big sisters.

Because of Title IX, I was able to follow in my mom's footsteps and pursue a career in athletics after such a great experience growing up in the world of college sports.

Bronwen Gainsford, Wittenberg field hockey coach

Many of the pioneers in women's sports, particularly in Ohio and the Midwest have been legends in the field hockey community. They paved the way and created opportunities for us to compete and created a vision for women to have careers in sport. They took on gender equity issues and advocated for their student-athletes. Specifically at Wittenberg, Betty Dillahunt and Dr. Linda Arena served as pioneers for field hockey and women's athletics.

At Wittenberg, Betty Dillahunt was a pioneer for women's sports. Dillahunt founded the field hockey team, the first women's sports team at Wittenberg, and also coached eight other sports. During her time at Wittenberg, Dillahunt also served as the women's athletic director during a time when women's sports were governed by the AIAW and not the NCAA.

During Arena's tenure as Women's Sports Athletic Director, Arena tackled gender equity. Under her leadership Wittenberg saw its first women's NCAA Championship appearances with field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and swimming.

I am thankful for all the work Dillahunt and Arena put into creating opportunities at Wittenberg for women and tackling gender equity issues in sport. Moreover, I am thankful to see their work continued by the coaches and administrators who followed. I am lucky to be a part of a department that values gender equity and continues to look for ways to improve upon the changes that Title IX has made in Wittenberg Athletics.

Kari Hoffman, Wright State women's basketball coach

Title IX has been the most important decision to affect the growth of female athletics. I know that, as a player and as a coach, I've reaped the benefits of their sacrifices, and we are fortunate to compete in the Title IX era. I'm grateful that we can continue the work of growing our game and increasing opportunities for young women because of Title IX.

Tim Horsmon, Dayton volleyball head coach

Title IX has given me the opportunity to coach 22 teams. Each is different, but one thing has always remained the same: each was full of intelligent, strong, passionate and high-character women.

I am grateful for so many great women who I have learned from, and I am hoping in some small way their experience in our program has helped them grow throughout their years here.

Title IX has given women everywhere opportunities that were not afford to these deserving athletes 50 years ago.

Dr. Pamela D. Johnson, Cedarville women's tennis coach

While doing my undergraduate education in Health and Physical Education at the University of Dayton from 1966-70, there was constant reference to the possibility that one day there might be a law that would require schools to provide equal opportunities for girls in education and in athletics. As a girl who loved sports but had very few opportunities to do anything with it other than play with the kids in our neighborhood, this was incredibly exciting. But I did wonder if it would ever really happen. The women physical education professors at UD like Doris Drees did their best to provide us with some athletic opportunities, but they had very little administrative support to do so and so had to be quite creative and entrepreneurial. Incredibly, though, they persuaded the administration to give us the opportunity in 1969 to go to the inaugural CIAW National Invitational Basketball Tournament at Slippery Rock State College.

As I continued my educational journey to The Ohio State University for my master's and Ph.D., my colleagues and I continued to follow the progress of the possibility of having a federal law require equal opportunity for women in athletics and education, somewhat modeled after the 1964 civil rights legislation. And in 1972 it finally happened, but as a mere 37-word statement in the midst of a humongous education bill that had many more contentious components like busing and desegregation and federal aid for college students, the 37 words that are Title IX did not get a lot of press until 1975 when the explanations and regulations for its implementation were published. That's when things really got hot. It was often reported that this legislation would cause the end of men's athletics. While none of us wanted that, we just wanted those same opportunities.

I think from what we've heard even in the past year or so with regard to the lack of equality in the experiences provided for the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, we haven't "arrived." But it's a cinch that today's girls and women have had significantly more athletic and educational opportunities available to them than they ever would have without Title IX, and for that I am very grateful.

Neil Sullivan, Dayton Athletic Director

I think the first thing we think about is the fundamental fairness that should be an expectation across campuses in this country. I'm certainly not Title IX expert, but as I understand it, it originally passed in 1972, and it really wasn't about athletics. It was about prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program or any activity that receives federal aid. Since 1972, that has led to a certain area of the Division of Civil Rights really focusing on athletics with some three-prong tests and things like that. I think like many things on the spectrum of equality, it's a journey. It's a process that is always ongoing, but I'm really proud of our women's sports programs, and I'm perhaps more proud at UD that when you think about the success of women's volleyball, women's basketball, women's soccer and the experience that those young women have, for those of us that are relatively young in the business, we can't really picture an athletic department without it. It's kind of built into what we do — not because we just simply want to comply with federal law but because we genuinely and authentically invest in both men's and women's programs. They're amazing young men and women that we're proud to support.

Tamika Williams-Jeter, Dayton women's basketball coach

Who knew in 1972 when Title IX was passed that it would have such a huge impact on women's sports. It has allowed us to play on a national stage, in front of sold out crowds, and on television where all of our family can see. The last 50 years have been great, but what I love best about being part of the A-10 family is how intentional we are about making sure the next 50 years are even better. Here's to you Title IX.

Alayna Yates, Dayton volleyball middle blocker

What Title IX means to me, and I think so many other female athletes, is having the opportunity to compete. It may not be something I think about daily, but it's something I know has allowed me this great opportunity to play the sport I love here at UD and be able to do it surrounded by an amazing group of women that I am lucky enough to call my teammates. When I was young, I was interested in a lot of different activities and I didn't always know if volleyball was going to be my path. When I was a freshman in high school and began to love the game, I fell in love with the feeling of a hard-fought victory accomplished only through hard work with some of my best friends by my side. I'm so grateful Title IX has allowed me to continue this love through now two years of college ball, getting to compete with new friends who I'll have by my side for life.