Celebrating a Legacy of Opportunity

Celebrating a Legacy of Opportunity

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It is a brief 37-word civil rights statute included in the Education Amendments of 1972, but it is legislation that has changed millions of lives.

“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.”

 Fifty years ago, the passage of Title IX gave a new generation of young women across America protections their mothers and grandmothers had never been ensured previously.

And while Title IX covers a broad range of educational opportunities, there is perhaps no area in which its impact has been most felt than in sports.

The passage of Title IX opened doors for women to receive athletic scholarships at universities across the country. It ensured girls in high schools could play sports at the same level their male counterparts did. And it has helped create professional opportunities for countless women in the business world, in sports, and beyond.

As this groundbreaking piece of legislation celebrates its 50th anniversary, we asked student-athletes and members of the Hurricanes’ athletic department – many of whom were student-athletes themselves – what Title IX has meant to them.

Here’s what they had to say, in their own words…

 “Our mission in college athletics is to impact young people by giving them opportunities to pursue the sports they love while earning an education. Since its inception, Title IX has created millions of opportunities and millions of women have seized those opportunities to change our world for the better. I could not be prouder of our female coaches and staff members who have helped blaze that trail, and our current female student-athletes who will continue to accomplish great things and impact our future.”

 – Dan Radakovich, Vice President/Director of Athletics

“I am truly a product of the opportunity Title IX provides for young women and I am thankful to all of those who paved the trail for the opportunities I have been provided.  Having watched over the last 20 plus year of my career, plus my time as a student-athlete, to see where we were, where we’ve come and that people truly understand and recognize the importance of providing equitable experiences for girls is amazing.  Although Title IX is not solely about athletics, to know the opportunities it provided through athletics and to watch young women gain the confidence, gain the leadership, gain the experiences necessary to go on and be successful, that is what Title IX provided.  

 “Title IX created role models. It truly allowed young girls to dream. When I was young, there were very few female role models for me and for other young girls.  While it took time, Title IX created pathways for women to earn higher-level opportunities which then created a new generation of aspiring female athletes and professionals. We owe it to those who came before us to give back and to mentor the next generation of female student-athletes. To me, that’s evolution. And that is the power of Title IX. There is certainly more to be done, but today we celebrate the opportunities that Title IX created over the last 50 years and the number of girls that have been impacted by its reach.”

 – Jennifer Strawley, Deputy Director of Athletics/Chief Operating Officer/Senior Woman Administrator and former softball student-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania

“I never would have had the opportunity to go to college had it not been for that scholarship. From that perspective, it’s just amazing. I have no doubt that there’s many, many athletes out there today that could say the same thing. They wouldn’t get to go to college were it not for the opportunity to have an athletic scholarship. That really is a very important perspective. I am one that my parents did not have the money. I wouldn’t have gotten to go to college and I don’t know what would have been different for me.”

– Terry Williams Munz, former golf student-athlete at the University of Miami and the first woman to receive an athletic scholarship at a U.S. university

Terry Williams Munz, the first woman to sign an athletic scholarship, was a member of Miami's 1977 national championship golf team.

“Title IX means women, like my young daughters, have the same opportunities in athletics like the men I’ve coached and has been a springboard to success well beyond their collegiate careers.”

– Randy Ableman, Head Diving Coach

 “We stand on the shoulders of those who fought for Title IX, a law that has led to boundless opportunities for girls and young women. This is especially true in college athletics, and we strive to honor the legacy they built every day.”

 – Sarah Barnes, Head Soccer Coach and former soccer student-athlete at the University of Connecticut

 “In high school, I had a woman as a coach and I had no idea how impactful that would be in my life, or that that was even out of the norm. Growing up, Title IX wasn’t something I thought of because I was fortunate to be in an environment where I was told I could do whatever I decided to do and encouraged to do my best at it. It was never really about being a girl or a boy.

 “For me, the impact of Title IX  didn’t really hit me until I got to the University of Miami and was provided the opportunity to be the head coach. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to build a program here and have it be the best that it can be. And as I’ve grown in my position and met people across the country – whether it was in college sports or in my experiences at USA Track & Field – I’ve seen that was the benefit of so many women before me who pushed and forged to give me the opportunities I’ve had in college sports.”

 – Amy Deem, Director of Track & Field/Cross Country and former track student-athlete at Ohio University

 “We continue to experience the evolution and the positive effect of Title IX in our society. My mother, who may be one of the biggest volleyball fans on earth, didn’t have the opportunities my three sisters had growing up. My wife was able to extend her career in the beautiful game of volleyball beyond her collegiate years. Today, I get to experience firsthand the opportunity my players have each and every day to share their passion, compete and pursue their dreams.”

– Jose “Keno” Gandara, Head Volleyball Coach

 “Title IX is the opportunity to pursue something that you are passionate about at the institution you are proud to represent, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like.”

 – Andy Kershaw, Head Swimming Coach

 “I think it’s opportunity, but opportunity that we took advantage of. I think [there was a] transition from Title IX being something people had to do – pat you on the head, do it like it’s charity or they were obligated or legislated to do it – and we just didn’t get our feelings hurt. We made it an amazing situation. Now, people actually want to put us on TV and want to come to the games. So, it was just an opportunity.”

 – Katie Meier, Head Women’s Basketball Coach and former basketball student-athlete at Duke University

“As a result of Title IX, women have been able to break barriers. It has provided me as a player the opportunity to play at the collegiate level while getting a premier education. It has given the opportunity for me to provide for my student-athletes and has given them opportunity to dream they can do anything. Growing up, I was raised by women in sports. They were my inspiration. Seeing them achieve greatness and, because of Title IX, I was able to follow in those footsteps.”

 – Janice Olivencia, Head Golf Coach and former golf student-athlete at the University of Texas

 “Title IX has provided so many wonderful opportunities for women, including me. I’ve had the opportunity to compete and have a career in athletics, coaching young women, because of it. We must continue to embrace these opportunities moving forward, both on the playing field and in the workplace.”

– Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, Head Women’s Tennis Coach and former tennis student-athlete at UCLA

 “I remain grateful for the opportunities I have experienced through sport because of Title IX. Not only have I participated in sports throughout high school and college, I now work within athletics to provide an inclusive environment for all. I take great pride in being a member of an athletic community and will continue to be supportive of all things that empower others. The 50th anniversary of Title IX is an incredible reminder of how far we have come in the work of anti-discrimination, equity and inclusion for women. But, we still have work to do, so back to work!”

– Shirelle Jackson, Senior Associate Athletic Director/Student-Athlete Development and former track & field student-athlete at Bowling Green University

 “Title IX has not only provided me exponential opportunities, personally, as a former student-athlete at the University of Central Florida, but now I reap the benefits of it from a professional level. Title IX has allowed me to live out my dream of coaching and mentoring incredible young women at a Power Five school and receive the utmost support from our athletic department in doing so. Title IX has changed the trajectory of the advancement of women’s rowing and has assisted in developing the next generation of game changers in our community, both on and off the water. I will eternally be grateful for the passing of the Title IX law, 50 years ago.”

– Claire Frenkel, Assistant Rowing Coach and former rowing student-athlete at the University of Central Florida

 “I’ve always grown up with Title IX, so I don’t know a world without it. Title IX, to me, is a good start. I think it gives us a base, a platform and then I think we have to do a better job of enforcing it…We all know in a biased society, gender matters and you get more based on whether you’re a man or a woman. It’s really hard to say Title IX is the end-all be-all, but I think it’s an excellent start.”

– Shenise Johnson, Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach and former basketball student-athlete at the University of Miami

 “Title IX, to me, means opportunity. It gave me the opportunity to grow as an athlete, coach and individual. Which then grew into the opportunity to work with and for amazing men and women. Title IX has allowed for representation throughout what were and in some cases still are male dominated spaces. Without Title IX, myself and other women wouldn’t have had the resources to participate fully in educational programs or women’s athletics.”

– Caitlin Smith, Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for Men’s Tennis, Track & Field, Cross Country and Volleyball and former field hockey student-athlete at Longwood University

“Title IX means many different things to me. It gave me the opportunity and privilege to pursue my lifelong passion of tennis at the collegiate level. My mom played college basketball before Title IX and didn’t have the same opportunities to compete that I was afforded. Title IX gives women an equal playing field to participate in collegiate sports, enjoy collegiate life and beyond.  Given my current position, Title IX affords me the opportunity to help current and future female student athletes live their dreams of participating in athletics at the collegiate level and beyond.”

– Jessica Green, Assistant Director of Development, Alumni Programs/Director, M Club and former tennis student-athlete at Michigan State

 “For me, with Title IX, I have to look back and realize how much Title IX has actually given me. I feel like especially my generation, we take it for granted almost. I’ve always had the opportunity to play sports. I grew up around sports. There wasn’t a barrier in my mind that I needed to overcome. But I know so many women did have those barriers and they fought through that for me. That’s something that is really cool to think about. When you take a step back and realize how it was when it started and how much progress we’ve made, it’s really just amazing to see.”

– Kylie Greenwell, Assistant Director of Digital Strategy and former track & field student-athlete at Idaho State University

 “To me, Title IX begins with recognizing the strength and the power of the women who have come before me. I take a lot of pride in being a former student-athlete, especially at the University of Miami, where so many incredible people started a foundation for us to continue to build upon. It is a great honor to help current student-athletes recognize the importance of Title IX and the opportunities it has created for everyone in both sport and life.”

– Jessica Hurley, Program Coordinator for Student-Athlete Development and former swimming student-athlete at the University of Miami

 “Title IX has given us experiences that we as young adults don’t really understand. It was our older peers, our older counterparts that went through that. It’s been around a long time, so we’re grateful to experience what life is now as a woman playing basketball. I think Title IX has elevated he game more than ever. Us women have a voice now. Us women have been put on a platform. People can watch women’s sports, pay attention to women and see we’re just as good as the guys…Title IX is something that’s just going to keep building, keep trucking along and put these younger girls on the map. It lets them know you are supposed to be here.”

– Morgan Stroman, Assistant Director of Operations for Women’s Basketball and former basketball student-athlete at the University of Miami

“I feel like Title IX has allowed me to have a seat at the table in traditionally male-dominated spaces like engineering and sports. But what I’ve come to realize is that the true power of Title IX is being able to create my own table that not only values, but seeks out, different perspectives that change the way science, sports and really everything is viewed in the world.”

 – Debbie Ajagbe, Thrower, Track & Field

 “I think, especially in the U.S., women’s basketball has really grown. More games are on T.V. There are bigger networks televising the games. That’s brought more fans to the game and that means a lot to all of us. Last season, we went to South Carolina and the gym was fully packed. To experience those moments, those feelings, that’s something you never forget. Being able to be at the same level as men’s teams, having our tournament called March Madness, it means our efforts are being noticed…That’s a big deal for every single girl on this team, to be able to feel the same as the men’s teams, which it never was before Title IX.”

 – Karla Erjavec, Guard, Women’s Basketball

 “As a female collegiate athlete, I am extremely grateful to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. This law has provided so many opportunities for some of the best female athletes to pursue their dreams and I am confident that with continued work and focus, we will shrink the gap with equality issues.”

 – Skylah Klein, Goalkeeper, Soccer