BOULDER – Fifty years ago, Congress advanced and passed landmark legislation that forever changed the trajectory of women’s sports in the United States.
This year, University of Colorado Athletics will mark the passage of Title IX with digital content, giving opportunities, celebrations and special recognition moments as the Buffaloes commemorate five decades of women’s sports advancement and the opportunities that have blossomed in that time.
CU Athletics takes pride in the advancement of women’s sports at Colorado since Title IX’s inception. CU has a robust women’s program that currently supports nine varsity sports: basketball, cross country, golf, skiing, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field and volleyball. Colorado’s women’s teams have won national and league championships, produced numerous all-conference, All-American and Olympic performers, and established themselves as consistently relevant and competitive on the national stage.
That advancement has by no means been easy. CU’s success has required the cooperation and support of leadership from every corner of the university, as well as a steadfast commitment from CU Athletics administrators to consistently provide the resources necessary to build a foundation of success.
From Jane Wahl – Colorado’s first athletic director for women’s sports – to current AD Rick GeorgeCU Athletics leaders have been vigilant and aggressive in their push to make the Buffs the standard for women’s sports success.
The journey has been a long one, and one that is not yet complete.
But CU’s history in promoting and advancing women’s sports has been a model for other programs, from the Buffs’ early days in the AIAW to the Big Eight, the Big 12 and now the Pac-12.
After Title IX became law in 1972, Colorado officials moved forward to make sure the school and program would be in compliance according to the legislation’s mandates.
Wahl came on board in 1975, first as Coordinator of Women’s Sports, then becoming CU’s first Women’s Athletic Director. She oversaw the transition of women’s club sports becoming varsity sports, a task that included hiring coaches, developing budgets and organizing travel and schedules. She helped CU gain membership in the AIAW (a precursor to the NCAA) and she had an integral role in working with Athletic Director Eddie Crowder to establish a working budget.
That led to CU’s women’s sports earning varsity status and officially merging with the men’s department in 1978-79.
Wahl’s initial efforts helped put down the foundational cornerstones for a women’s sports program that would soon begin to blossom.
Led by Hall of Famer Lisa Van Goor, the CU basketball team began to establish itself as a power under the direction of coach Sox Walseth (a longtime men’s coach at CU).
Crowder then hired Ceal Barry to lead the basketball program and the Buffs were on their way to becoming a Big Eight and national power under the guidance of the future national Hall of Famer. When Bill Marolt took over the AD reins, he made sure Barry had the necessary resources to build a winner, including recruiting and travel budgets that helped the Buffs become competitive with Big Eight and natonal rivals.
Marolt then ushered in volleyball as a varsity sport, and it quickly became a Big Eight power, winning conference titles and regularly making NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Buffs also established themselves as nationally relevant in other sports. CU produced individual and team national champions in skiing (which became a co-ed sport in terms of scoring national titles), track and field and cross country, and all-conference and All-American honorees in volleyball, golf and tennis.
Soon, more varsity sports were added. Soccer joined the roster in 1996 and lacrosse became a varsity sport in 2014.
With the addition of those sports, CU Athletics’ administration made sure resources were available. All Buffs student-athletes now have full access to CU’s world-class support programs, including Psychological Health and Performance; cutting-edge nutrition fueling stations; Leadership and Career Development Program; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training and advancement; Name, Image and Likeness training and guidance; and state-of-the-art locker rooms.
The process has produced the Buffaloes’ fair share of All-American and all-conference performers in virtually every sport. Meanwhile, more than 20 women coaches and athletes have been inducted into the Colorado Athletics Hall of Fame.
The names are legendary.
Barry and Wahl are members. Olympians such as Mary Decker Slaney and Jenny Barringer Simpson have been inducted. Van Goor, Shelley Sheetz, Bridget Turner, Jamillah Lang, Erin Scholz and Tera Bjorklund are among the basketball representatives. Other cross country / track and field performers include Yvonne Scott, Donna Waller, Sara Gorton Slattery and Kara Grgas-Wheeler Goucher while volleyball players Karrie Downey, Nicole Vranesh and Kelly Campbell are members.
Soccer players inducted include Fran Munnelly and Nikki Marshall while skiers in the hall include Jana Rehemaa and Lucie Zikova.
The list is a testament to CU’s commitment to women’s sports, and it will no doubt grow as the years progress and the Buffs continue to produce championship results.
Today’s announcement of CU’s Title IX celebration comes on International Women’s Day. Over the course of the next several months – including the June 23 official 50th anniversary date – CU Athletics will commemorate moments and individuals that have helped shape the history of women’s sports at Colorado.
There will also be giving opportunities to help ensure that women’s sports at Colorado continue to enjoy quality resources and support, as well as celebrations at CU sporting events.
Women’s sports have clearly carved out an important piece of Buffaloes history.
But the next 50 years promise to be even more productive.
You can help CU Athletics celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX by continuing to support women’s athletics and the programs that help Buffs student-athletes enjoy a world-class experience.