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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Athletic community reflects on 50 years of growth after Title IX

‘Even though we’ve come such a far way, I still feel like there’s so much to grow upon,’ athlete says
Charlotte Bellamy
BIG10 Title IX

As the University of Wisconsin celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, students, alumni and the athletic department have reflected on the success of UW women’s athletics and the progress UW has made.

Congress passed the Education Amendment Acts of 1972, including Title IX, which forbids discrimination within educational programs based on sex in a program receiving federal assistance. The legislation does not include the word “athletics,” but athletic programs associated with federally funded universities had to equalize resources between men’s and women’s programs.

UW athletics has been hosting events throughout the year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, including a fundraising campaign that will run through the end of the year to impact Badger women, according to the UW Athletics website.


The 50th reunion for UW’s class of 1972 featured a panel consisting of alumni and student-athletes in September that discussed the impacts of Title IX, the progress UW athletics has made and the disparities that still exist.

During the Badger football game against New Mexico State, UW honored previous members of the athletic community and celebrated the impact they made for UW women’s athletics.

Senior Women Administrator Katie Ahrens Smith said women’s sports have greatly benefitted from the enactment of Title IX legislation as it expanded opportunities for women within the athletic department at UW.

Throughout her past 25 years at UW athletics, Smith has worked with various athletic programs, enabling her to see the rise of many NCAA-winning teams such as women’s hockey and volleyball. She currently works with the football and volleyball programs.

Author and UW alumni Doug Moe said the accomplishments of these teams would not have been possible without the work of athletes before them as UW was slow to implement women’s programs after Title IX was passed. 

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This summer, the Big Ten Conference hosted the first Big Ten Women’s Leadership Summit in celebration of the 50th anniversary. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren highlighted the mission of this year’s summit and the Big Ten Conference overall within the realm of women’s athletics in a press release

“This event is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX and a reflection of our unwavering commitment to delivering transformational educational experiences and growth opportunities to our student-athletes,” Warren said.

Women’s soccer player Emma Jaskaniec, was one of three students representing UW at the summit. Hearing the struggles former women have faced when trying to access the same resources and opportunities as men’s athletics reminds her to be grateful but also to not stop persisting.

Jaskaniec believes UW has improved resources for women’s programs and has good policies in place. But, she continues to see inequities between her team and her male counterparts.

Having played in the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Soccer Sweet 16 twice, the only time Jaskaniec flew on a chartered plane was during the pandemic. Her friends on the UW men’s soccer team had been traveling on chartered planes since her freshman year even though they were not qualifying for these tournaments. 

I think the first time I’d ever charted on a plane was during COVID, and the only reason why was because of … some weird rule where they had to make us charter, but the men’s team had been chartering since my freshman year, Jaskaniec said. I was always confused [as to]  why we never got to, and we will never get to this year.

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The inequalities between mens’ and women’s athletics extend beyond the boundaries of UW.

During the 2021 NCAA basketball finals, the organization faced heavy criticism for the disparities in the weight room and other amenities between the mens’ and womens’ tournaments, according to NPR. Several female players drew attention to the disparities and substandard facilities at the NCAA tournament as their gym facilities lacked in size and equipment.

According to NPR, NCAA responded to the criticism by apologizing for the events that occurred during the tournament and committing to addressing inequalities.

Within her experiences with the volleyball program, Smith has witnessed NCAA review all of their championships.

“Having been to fortunate enough to have been to three straight Final Fours with our women’s volleyball team, we noticed enhancements that were made to the women’s volleyball championship [this past year] in Columbus. So while we did see that nationally, we have witnessed movement in a positive direction,” Smith said.

After Title IX first passed, former UW Chancellor Edwin Young established a committee in July 1972 to elevate women’s athletics.

“The chairman of the committee was Elroy Hirsch, who was the men’s athletic director,” Mo said. “He didn’t have a real vested interest in it.”

The committee only met once in the eight months after it was started. Shortly after, the U.S. Department of Civil Rights filed filed a complaint against UW for violating Title IX in April 1973, according to UW Badgers. Two weeks later, Young established a new committee to look further into women’s athletic programs which met 18 times that year.

Though club athletics existed for female students at UW before 1974, intercollegiate competition was nonexistent in athletics, as society feared it could damage women’s reproductive systems, according to UW Archives.

Saunders-Nordeen was announced as Wisconsin’s first director of women’s intercollegiate athletics on May 3, 1974. A month later, the UW athletic department officially added women’s badminton, basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, rowing, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and volleyball programs. 

Forty-eight years later, the Wisconsin crowd set the NCCA regular season record for attendance in a volleyball game at the Kohl Center on Sept. 16. Smith described the match as “magical.” 

Volleyball: Wisconsin loses match, but wins NCAA attendance record

“To sit at that score table and look up and see over 16,800 fans enjoying it, especially the young women or young girls that I saw in attendance, thinking about how they can picture themselves dreaming about being in that environment someday,” Smith said.

Despite losing that game, volleyball has represented the growth of UW athletics in the past 48 years, Smith said.

While UW athletics do not have current plans for volleyball to play again in the Kohl Center this season, Smith anticipates it returning in the future.

“I think we will always consider ways to grow and elevate the sport,” Smith said. “We don’t currently have plans set forth to do this on a more frequent basis. I do think it will. It will be something that’s brought up to consider doing more in the future.”

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