Courtesy of Toledo Athletic Media RelationsTitle IX
A lasting effect: Title IX opens career opportunities in sports for women in last 40 years
Ange Bradley grew up in a three-bedroom house in Drexel Hill, Pa., with her parents and six siblings. Life after high school promised the armed services and not much else for career opportunities.
College was out of the question unless Bradley could pay her own way. Title IX made that possible for the field hockey star.
“To have earned a college scholarship saved my life,” said Bradley, the Syracuse field hockey coach. “Most of the kids where I came from ended up on drugs or pregnant.”
Bradley was a two-sport athlete at Delaware before working her way up the coaching ranks. Now at the helm of one of the nation’s elite programs at SU, Bradley lives a life and career in an industry that barely existed before Title IX. Signed into law 40 years ago, Title IX attempted to create equality and opportunities for women.
The law forged previously unimagined careers for women’s athletes across the country, including Bradley, SU softball coach Leigh Ross and Associate Athletic Director Renee Baumgartner. While equality has not been perfected, women’s sports have come a long way in the last 40 years.
As a young athlete, Baumgartner recalls seeing opportunities on the horizon.
“I felt like women were really going to be on the verge of making a difference and possibly I could be one of those strong leaders that could pave a way,” she said.
Baumgartner’s road to a career in athletics was more planned than most.
A golf club was in her hand at age 3. As an 8-year-old, she began playing tournaments with the boys. The country club she and her family golfed at, Columbia-Edgewater in Portland, Ore., churned out college golfers over the years.
By high school, Baumgartner was determined to lead. She was junior class president of the first coed class in Central Catholic (Ore.) High School’s history. But when she ran for student body president at the end of her junior year, the seniors left over from the school’s all-male era tore down every single one of her campaign posters.
Baumgartner lost the election.
When she went to Southern California in 1983 on a golf scholarship, the effect of Title IX — then just 11 years old — had not hit her.
“My perspective back then was ‘Oh, everybody got this opportunity before me,’ and I didn’t realize that I was truly on the cusp of Title IX,” Baumgartner said.
After graduating from USC, she was hired to start Oregon’s first women’s golf team in 1987.
There was no avoiding the shakeup that the law created. She couldn’t miss where it lagged behind either.
“The men’s coach was very upset that a women’s team was coming on board, so my first day he said, ‘You have three questions and three questions only, and I never want to see you again,’” Baumgartner said.
Her team was awarded one scholarship. She shared a desk, chair and phone, all in an open cubicle, with the men’s golf coach and the assistant women’s basketball coach. Whoever got to work first got the chair.
Kal Alston, SU’s senior vice president for human capital development, served as the university’s compliance officer from 2011-12. In that role, Alston ensured SU met federal requirements for equal opportunity under Title IX.
“My perspective back then was ‘Oh, everybody got this opportunity before me,’ and I didn’t realize that I was truly on the cusp of Title IX.”
Renee Baumgartner, SU associate athletic director
Alston said the law altered cultural perspectives on women.
“The generation before me used to say things like, ‘Athletics would ruin women’s bodies or their ability to have children,’” Alston said.
The parents in the stands said Ross should go home and bake cookies. They certainly did not like the sight of her on the football field.
“I just wanted to play — any sport,” Ross said.
Though Ross’ football career began and ended in the fall of the fourth grade, she clung to the limited athletic opportunities she had.
As a seventh-grader, Ross was told she could no longer play baseball. For a girl, she was too old, so Ross endured the misery of slow-pitch softball. Besides that, basketball and cheerleading were her only other options.
In high school, she excelled in basketball, volleyball and softball.
Her high school coach, Kris Hubbard, was at the center of a progressive community of regional coaches and players. Ross called them pioneers for their lifelong commitment to the sport she now makes a living coaching.
“Whatever they went through, they went through worse than I did. I just got to play because they paved the way,” Ross said. “They kind of pushed people to force them to play, to let them play somewhere, and I’m glad that they went through that struggle for me.”
As a player at Toledo from 1988-91, Ross and her teammates rode in vans and stayed four to a room on road trips.
Two decades later, her SU team enjoys more perks than she did as a player. Her players are decked out head to toe in Nike gear and benefit from better travel arrangements and funding.
“We’re expecting to have what everybody else has,” Ross said. “We’re understanding, ‘We’re allowed to get that too,’ and it’s more of an expectation that we should.”
Ross said she reminds her players every day how lucky they are. The opportunities and resources for women’s athletics have undoubtedly changed in the last four decades.
That change paved the way for Bradley’s unlikely career.
Bradley worked at every camp she attended as a high-school athlete. With no money for the lucrative offseason camps, she hitched rides with local players when she couldn’t catch buses or trains. In the spring of 1984, Bradley was invited to try out for the University of Delaware.
She made the cut and earned a scholarship. College was suddenly a reality.
“It was just a way to be able to get yourself to college if you worked hard and to be able to get something that wasn’t given to everybody in that neighborhood,” Bradley said.
For Bradley, it was the start of a lifelong career in athletics — a dream Ross and Baumgartner also realized.
A dream made possible by Title IX.
“I always say that, ‘What would I do if I weren’t coaching?’” Ross said. “I can’t even imagine; I don’t even know what I’d do.”
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