The time ain't far off when a woman won't know any more than a man.
SECTION II. (A-2) of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Handbook: "Collegiate athletic personnel may attend scheduled events to assess the talent of a high school athlete, but may not talk to any student-athlete, nor to any member of a student-athlete's family.... The intent of this regulation is to develop a system in which any off campus solicitation is prohibited."
ITEM: Between games of a recent women's college basketball doubleheader at Philadelphia's Spectrum—in front of thousands of fans, dozens of eagle-eyed coaches from other schools and a journalist's open notebook—a representative of Old Dominion University, one of the participants in the doubleheader, made an impassioned sales pitch to a local high school star as she sat at courtside signing autographs for little girls. The Old Dominion coach, as well as at least two other major-college coaches, has paid visits to the same player's home.
SECTION III. (A-1) of the AIAW Handbook: "Financial aid based on athletic ability may be awarded for only tuition, fees, room and board."
March 20, 1978
ITEM: A college freshman, who averaged 26.2 points and 15.4 rebounds this season, last year allegedly turned down a cash offer of several thousand dollars from Nebraska alumni before enrolling at Kansas.
SECTION II. (A-1-b) of the AIAW Handbook: "An institution may not offer inducement, gifts or any financial gain...to a prospective student-athlete, a member of her family and/or her coach."
ITEM: A member of the 1976 United States Olympic team who transferred to Tennessee this season after playing for two years at little Mercer University of Macon, Ga. has told of being offered an assistant coach's job upon graduation as an enticement to leave Mercer and play for the Lady Volunteers.
The AIAW's Code of Ethics for Administrators says that the "primary aim of the administrator is to foster ethical practices of behavior which will accomplish and fulfill goals of wholesome and desirable experiences for all individuals in the program."
ITEM: The Rev. Oral Roberts, when asked about his beloved Titanettes team at Oral Roberts University, replied, "We're going to get the best women's basketball team that money can buy...within the rules, of course."
Welcome to the world of women's college basketball. Not long ago a game for tomboys with holes in their sweat socks, it is now sophisticated enough to be involved in the negotiation of a TV advertising contract with Hanes, the pantyhose people. And that is just one of many indications that women, despite an alleged aversion to the high-pressure climate of the male world, are not about to pass up the opportunity to move into the big time. A women's doubleheader at Madison Square Garden last year drew 12,336 fans. Earlier this season 6,500 screaming rooters attended a game in Raleigh between North Carolina State and Wayland Baptist.
The bottom line is this: women's basketball is women's athletics right now, at least on the college level. And it has a chance to become the third women's sport—following the lead of tennis and golf—to capture a substantial share of the public's entertainment dollar and to attract big television money.
This is startling because women's basketball is hardly a polished game. Nonetheless, in six years it has progressed from intramural status to the brink of overemphasis. It has its own weekly Top 20 and full-ride scholarships, and by all indications it is headed down the same rocky road of recruiting violations and other abuses that the men's game has traveled. In short, the game may be young, but it is already in trouble. Recruiting in many places is similar to the Oklahoma land rush; the talent is out there for the taking, and fewer and fewer coaches and administrators seem concerned about how they go about getting it. Women are switching schools "to play on a national champion." Meanwhile the AIAW, which does not require that transfer students lay off a year before becoming eligible—as the NCAA discovered long ago was necessary—staunchly defends their "right to seek a better education."
Worse still, these actions are being undertaken in cavalier fashion; the coaches involved are laughing at the rules and at the AIAW's inability to enforce them. The problem is that half of the AIAW membership wants to run a sophisticated physical-education program for college women; the other half wants to get involved in the business of big-time sports. Half of the AIAW leadership is too naive to believe that the above examples of wrongdoing are taking place on a wide scale; the other half is too busy trying to get a piece of the action to worry that the sport is sitting on a powder keg.
"We've plunged in so quickly that we already may have gone too far," says Emily Harsh, the women's athletic director at Vanderbilt. "The men are trying to back out of the same situation the women are nearing. It's a shame. One coach sees another coach get a player and figures it must've been crooked. She thinks she's got to do it, too, or she'll get behind. Then the ball begins to roll. There seems no end to it."
The start of it occurred in 1972 when legislation known as "Title IX" changed the way women's college sports would be organized. A rider to the Educational Amendments Act that Congress passed despite a storm of protests from the NCAA, Title IX stipulated that the woman athlete share, with her male counterpart, in all athletic monies and facilities. It was never the intent of Title IX to make women's sports big-time, in the sense that men's sports long have been.
Because of Title IX, disgruntled athletic directors were forced to spend long hours tearing apart their male-oriented budgets in order to find a way of robbing Peter to pay Pauline. At first, the major colleges seemed more interested in issuing warnings that the law would prove the undoing of intercollegiate athletics than they were in building strong women's programs. While they were complaining, small schools with well-established women's basketball teams continued to rule the sport—albeit on borrowed time.
Since 1972, when the newly formed AIAW held its first national basketball championship, all six first-place trophies have been taken home to either Immaculata, Pa. or to Cleveland, Miss. Immaculata College, a Catholic women's school near Philadelphia, won the first three titles in 1972-73-74, largely because Coach Cathy Rush was the best women's strategist in the country. Mississippi's Delta State College has been the champion for the past three years, thanks to the prowess of the game's best player to date, 6'3" Center Lucy Harris. These two schools were so dominant that Immaculata was also runner-up to Delta State in '75 and '76. But last season—as a sign of things to come—Louisiana State and Tennessee took second and third. Neither Delta State nor Immaculata is likely to win the title this year, because while some big-school coaches like Alabama's Ed Nixon, who is strapped for funds and has never even been introduced to Bear Bryant, are still treated as second-class citizens, most of the nation's major colleges have begun to gear up for women's basketball in a big, big way.
As one would expect, UCLA has jumped in with both feet. The Bruins' new coach, Billie Jean Moore, is expected to bring an AIAW championship banner to Pauley Pavilion before long. It could happen this month, because the 1978 nationals will be held at UCLA March 23-25. The University of Texas Tower used to be lit only when the Long-horns won a football game. These days it also glows in the dark when the Lady Longhorns win a state championship. At Mississippi State there is even a genuine referee-baiter coach who combines all the tempestuous qualities of Woody Hayes and Al McGuire. That is sassy Peggy Collins, a 30-year-old ball of fire whose sideline antics have been known to include Jimmy Connors' favorite hand signal as a rejoinder to antagonistic crowds. Even Joe Namath has been caught up in the fun. When he heard about Nixon's economic plight, Namath mailed the women's program at his alma mater a check for $50,000.
With all this going on, it is not surprising that the AIAW has already been called upon to investigate its first recruiting scandal. Yet it seems so dreadfully early for that kind of thing. So early, in fact, that the AIAW does not even have a full-time enforcement committee. That may explain why no evidence of wrongdoing was found in the case of Lynette Woodard, the freshman at Kansas who was allegedly offered a new car or several thousand dollars if she would enroll at Nebraska. Lest this be dismissed as a flight of fancy, it should be noted that a former Nebraska coach has told a friend that the offer came from Cornhusker alumni in the Omaha area, where Woodard had starred as an AAU player.
Despite the Woodard case, women's basketball still has a way to go before it reaches the seedy side of town where the men's game often hangs out. But when the 7-year-old AIAW and the 72-year-old NCAA each held a convention in Atlanta during the second week in January, the subjects of concern were remarkably similar.
The differences in wealth and status between the two groups were apparent in their choice of hotels. The NCAA was ensconced at the ultramodern Peachtree Plaza, with its half-acre lake-in-the-lobby that helped refresh the amendment-weary conventioneers. Because they wanted the media and their male counterparts to take notice of their convention, too, the AIAW leaders overlooked the fact that Georgia is a non-ERA state and checked in across town at the construction-ravaged Colony Square Hotel. In exchange for a reduced $28 room rate, delegates had to cope with near-freezing temperatures in the lobby—owing to the fact that part of the Colony Square's roof was missing—and with little signs put up by the management that read: WE'RE NOT REMODELING. THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT RUNS THROUGH OUR BASEMENT.
There was a bit of rumbling in one of the basement ballrooms at around 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, as Joan Hult, head of the AIAW's Ethics & Eligibility Committee, was explaining the "no harassment" recruiting amendment that would make it improper for a coach to exchange anything more than "pleasantries" with a high school player or her parents. It would replace a milder rule that permitted coaches to deliver a full sales pitch to a recruit—provided the player or her parents initiated the conversation. As Hult was about to move on to another matter, a young administrator from the University of Detroit, Lydia Sims, stood up and asked the question that had been on everyone's mind: "How will this be policed?"
For a moment the huge hall filled with almost 900 delegates, observers and journalists fell silent. The women who had been concentrating on their needlepoint looked up. Merrily Dean Baker, the women's athletic director at Princeton, stopped rocking her 4-month-old daughter, Jennifer, who was asleep in a baby buggy. Hult stared back at Sims and replied, "We are built upon self-policing." After that statement, there was so much snickering and shuffling of papers that the chair was almost obliged to gavel the meeting back to order.
The incident illuminates the AIAW's most pressing dilemma. It cannot—or will not—come up with the money for a full-time enforcement unit, and so it professes not to need one. Its solution to keeping the shady ladies from overrunning the good sports is to use a lot of holier-than-thou talk.
"You can't legislate morality," says Texas Women's Athletic Director Donna Lopiano, "but I think that women are different from men. I don't think we're doomed to repeating the men's mistakes."
"Women have different ego gratifications than men," says Baker of Princeton. "Our expectation levels are different, and I don't think we're headed down the same road. There are opportunities now that I never had as a girl, and yet we're not pushing young women into the same high-pressure recruiting situations that men go through."
But there are indications already that there will be a wide discrepancy between the letter—and spirit—of the no-harassment rule, which passed by a vote of 230-212, and the tactics of recruiters.
"I could turn in 100 violators tomorrow," said Kansas State Coach Judy Akers only a month after the rule's passage.
"As soon as they passed the rule, I heard coaches joking about it," says Lynn George, women's athletic director at George Washington. "They were saying, 'I'll take my brother or sister along to talk to a recruit.' Besides, who is going to time 'pleasantries'? When do they start and stop?"
"A lot of women in this game are awfully naive—not only about how big it's gotten, but about each other," says Marianne Stanley, the 23-year-old coach at Old Dominion who exemplifies the new breed that is taking over the sport. Stanley is not a tenured member of the phys ed department. She is strictly a coach, and she must win to keep her job. "Women approach this like a tea party," she says. "Well, that's not realistic when you're giving out scholarships based on athletic ability. The AIAW talks about the purity of its system curing its ills. What good are rules if they can't enforce them? I just saw a college coach with the same high school recruit on four consecutive days."
When Stanley talks about recruiting violations, she speaks from first hand knowledge, because she is one of those three coaches who have visited the home of June Olkowski, a blue-chip six-foot forward from St. Maria Goretti High in Philadelphia. It was also a representative from Old Dominion who gave Olkowski that big recruiting rush at the Spectrum doubleheader. These are definite no-nos, according to the AIAW Handbook. But, then, Rutgers Coach Teresa Grentz has been in the Olkowski home, too. So has Pat Meiser of Penn State. "This women's basketball," says a bewildered Mrs. Eleanor Olkowski, "it's getting to be a big deal, isn't it?"
Stanley, Grentz and Meiser are not being singled out for criticism. Richard Perry, the USC athletic director, doesn't even consider their activities reprehensible. "I find the AIAW's rule fiscally irresponsible," he says. "If we're going to spend thousands of dollars a year on athletic scholarships for women, we want to attract the best. That mandates evaluating those players, finding out what kind of people they are and what kind of homes they come from."
In lieu of in-person recruiting, the AIAW has instituted "auditions," which a coach may "hostess." Under these arrangements, a player who has finished her junior year in high school must pay her own way to an institution for a try-out. While she is there she can ask and be asked every question imaginable. This may sound like a clever alternative, but in practice it discriminates against students who cannot afford to visit campuses and, therefore, can never talk in person to coaches about playing college basketball—to say nothing about the inequities of the whole tryout system, which the NCAA long ago wisely outlawed. As Jean Balthaser of Pitt says, "AIAW rules actually make it easier to go after transfer students—I mean recruit strictly on the college level—than to try to deal with these silly regulations for assessing high school talent."
The transfer rule, which allows women to play without sacrificing a year of eligibility, was another major point of contention in Atlanta. Lopiano, a supporter of the rule, says, "Every year 15% to 18% of the 80,000 women athletes at AIAW schools transfer. Why should we penalize them? They have the right to seek a better education—maybe the second school has a better law program—and still participate in collegiate sports. And what if they do transfer for athletic reasons? Athletes should have the same rights as all other students."
That seems reasonable enough, except that basketball is supposed to be an extracurricular activity. With no women's NBA and certainly not enough college coaching jobs to go around, it is odd that an educationally minded administrator would support a system that encourages women to transfer solely for athletic reasons. In addition, under AIAW rules, a transfer student may play basketball immediately, but must forfeit her scholarship, which is sometimes essential to her remaining in school. The NCAA's method is to allow the athletes to keep the scholarships but lose a year's eligibility.
"Most of the athletes I've known who transferred did so because they wanted to be a starter instead of the third guard," says Detroit's Sims. "I should know, because I left the University of Michigan and a great business school just to play basketball at Immaculata but transferred back to Michigan when I realized my education would be more important to me in the long run. I am an assistant women's athletic director at Detroit mainly because of my degree in business from Michigan, not because I played basketball at Immaculata."
Though schools like Rutgers and Nevada-Las Vegas have already gained the nickname "Transfer U.," the row over the transfer rule centers around another young coach, Pat Head of Tennessee.
Two years ago, when Center Trish Roberts left Emporia (Kans.) State and turned up at Tennessee for her senior season, opposing coaches winked at each other and congratulated Head on her good fortune. That was putting it mildly, seeing as how Roberts, a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, poured in 51 points in her first game and led the Lady Vols to that third-place finish in last year's national tournament. When Forward Cindy Brogdon of Mercer University transferred this season to Tennessee—where she has averaged 23 points a game—rival coaches stopped winking and began blinking in disbelief. True, Brogdon had been Head's roommate in Montreal when they both played on the Olympic team. It is also true that Brogdon's coach at Mercer, the flamboyant Peggy Collins, had quit to take the Mississippi State job, and Cindy was ripe to be persuaded to go elsewhere. But how did the switch come about and who made the first move?
What disturbs Mercer officials is that Head and Roberts both showed up at the Georgia Hall of Fame dinner in Atlanta in February 1977. They had good reason for being there, because Roberts, a Georgia native, was being honored and logically would have been accompanied by her coach. The only snag is that Head was seen talking to Brogdon, who still had not finished her sophomore season at Mercer. Although this conversation may have been innocuous, the AIAW's reliance on self-policing left Head open to allegations of "tampering" by her rivals.
"If there was enticement by Pat Head, and if it happened that night, I can't prove it," says Mercer Athletic Director John Mitchell. "But Ed Nixon, the Alabama coach, is a friend of Cindy's, and he will tell you what she told him."
Nixon says, "Cindy told me she was going to Tennessee because she wanted the chance to play on a national champion this year. She also said the Vols had offered her a postgraduate scholarship and an assistant coaching position when she was through playing."
The coaching offer is a severe violation of AIAW rules, and by June 1977 the heat Tennessee was getting over the alleged tampering with Brogdon prompted its women's athletic director, Gloria Ray, to write a letter to Mitchell. It read in part:
"Dear Mr. Mitchell: I think Cindy made it very clear in her interview that it was her decision to transfer and she did so for her own reasons.... My belief is that she was ready for a change and that she made a very difficult decision after much thought and prayer.... I am concerned when words such as 'tampering' and 'illegal recruiting' are used when articles are written about Cindy's decision to transfer...."
This sounded like a non-denial denial to Mitchell, and it struck him as odd that he got a letter from Ray, though he had never requested an explanation from Tennessee. So last fall he verbally protested Brogdon's transfer to AIAW officials. He has not heard a word from them.
Tennessee Tech's coach, Marynell Meadors, was at one time thinking of reporting Head to the E & E Committee for allegedly tampering with one of Tech's players—sophomore Forward Pam Chambers, who has a 16-point scoring average this year and leads the Golden Eaglettes in steals and assists. Says Meadors, "I learned during last year's regional and national tournaments that Pat was trying to recruit Chambers. When I confronted Pat with this, she said my student assistant coach had initiated the proposition as part of a package deal to get a coaching job at Tennessee. I couldn't be sure my assistant hadn't, and so I let it drop. The scary thing about the transfer rule is that it would be possible for someone to come in here and destroy my program overnight."
Compared to the total of 100-plus violations for which the NCAA has cited the men's programs at Long Beach State, Southwestern Louisiana, Minnesota and Nevada-Las Vegas in recent years, the women's practices seem like small concerns. But as an omen of the direction in which the women's game is headed, these practices hardly support the AIAW's official position that its game is essentially pure and that self-policing makes sense.
While researching this story SPORTS ILLUSTRATED representatives interviewed coaches and athletic administrators in 27 states and received many reports of rules violations. More than three-fourths of those surveyed said self-policing was a farce. One of them was Chris Weller, the women's basketball coach at Maryland. "The AIAW is playing ostrich," she says. "It won't make rules with teeth in them because that would be an admission that certain things are going on that the AIAW claims never happen."
Not only does the E & E Committee almost never put anybody on probation, but when it does, it also keeps the probation secret. There is little deterrent value in that, and so Jeanne Rowlands, head of the Eastern Region's E & E Committee, soon will ask her regional board to recommend publication of violators' names. That way schools not on probation can refuse to schedule schools that are. "There is an extraordinary amount of smoke," says Rowlands. "I'm unable to make an intelligent judgment about how much fire there really is. But we're not going to run around the country policing everybody. Otherwise, we'd have to create an incredible bureaucracy."
"I'm glad the AIAW doesn't have enough problems to have a real enforcement committee," says USC's Perry with a pound of sarcasm. "The NCAA didn't back in 1929, either."
That was the year the Carnegie Report was published, acknowledging that college athletics was rife with abuses that needed cleaning up. But it wasn't until 1952 that the NCAA found that efforts to enforce rules without a police force were a waste of time. That year it empowered a subcommittee to process cases of rules violations.
"This may sound funny, but the NCAA made its mark in infractions," says Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke, who, along with Walter Byers, two secretaries and a bookkeeper, constituted the entire NCAA staff in 1952. "It was when the NCAA put the Kentucky basketball team on probation in '52 that people really took notice that severe punishments would be handed out."
Faith, trust and good intentions, words left over from early NCAA conventions, were bandied about at the Colony Square in Atlanta as though they were a three-member enforcement unit all by themselves. But only stronger legislation can control the unrestrained growth of women's basketball. Rather than crowing about a purity that does not exist, the women might better take a good look at the NCAA—which despite its failings has strong rules and takes significant measures to enforce them—and try to improve on it.
The AIAW's unwillingness to institute rigorous procedures to police infractions was one of the causes of the rift that became evident in Atlanta between those who want broad-based athletic programs for women and those who have decided that ego gratification and a day in the sun are what women deserve after years of athletic deprivation. A disproportionate share of the monies mandated by Title IX, which could be used to add a varsity field-hockey team to a school's program or to fund a traveling schedule for the volleyball squad, is being spent to hype the basketball program at places like Old Dominion. The question of emphasis has been argued by Karol Kahrs of the University of Illinois and by Cal Papatsos of Queens (N.Y.) College.
Kahrs, an assistant director of women's athletics, registered her disgust while the AIAW convention was in the midst of a heated battle over whether a school should have to offer a specified number of other sports in order to compete in Division I basketball. Her message was this: "I didn't hear anybody mention her budget when we were talking about providing tutors for athletes. I didn't hear anybody mention her budget when we were voting to give scholarships. But now that we're asking a school to provide other sports besides basketball, all I hear is how budgets won't allow them."
Papatsos, a retired faculty member, is one of the AIAW's most avid feminists and its resident pragmatist. "Success has many prices," she says. "How do you measure what women have paid in their quest for equality? When Title IX came along we had to take the whole bag, and that started the dilemma. Men were getting blazers, so we wanted them, too. Women are no different than men when it comes to handling power. When we get it, the same negatives will apply. So what? Personally, I've always wanted to do two things. One, escape to Brazil with $1 million in embezzled funds, because that would mean a woman finally had access to that kind of cash. Second, write The Godmother."
Critics of Walter Byers, the Godfather of the NCAA, claim he no longer worries about controlling men's games, as long as the promotion of them is going well. A similar statement could be made about the AIAW leadership, which apparently does not plan to lose any sleep over the incidences of wrongdoing, as long as it does not interfere with the women's quest for a fair share of the action.
"Enforcing rules that people don't really want to obey can be a lonely task," says Duke. "It doesn't make you feel good when you come home at night. I try to remain optimistic. But I've been going to NCAA conventions for 25 years, and I see much the same problems now as I always did. Just different people, different faces. Maybe in the near future those faces will belong to women."