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Women’s Basketball: Cajuns come a long way

Title IX helped boost women’s basketball program to success

Women at UL began playing basketball in 1904, long before men on campus started playing hoops in 1911.

Now, UL’s women’s team is making its first trip to the NCAA basketball championships.

Today, the Lady Cajuns play Marquette in the first round of the tournament.

When Title IX legislation was created in 1972 to prohibited sex discrimination at educational institutions that received federal funding, UL’s women’s team had little money for out-of-town trips.

Earlier this week, as the women’s team was loading up a bus to travel to Austin for the game, UL assistant athletic director, Sherry LeBas recalled how far the program and all women’s sports have come since Title IX.

LeBas was a student on campus in the late 60s and began working in the athletic department in 1973. LeBas is the senior administrator over the women’s athletic programs.

"When I was a student here the women’s basketball team drove their own cars to games and they were funded through the recreation department," LeBas said. "It’s amazing how much things have changed and amazing to see where they are now. This is a big step for us."

The state dedicates funds to ensure gender equity in athletics. Each institution receives $125,000 that can be used specifically to support women’s athletic programs for the purchase of equipment, hiring of coaches, locker rooms, recruitment, maintenance of practice facilities.

State law also allows colleges to offer 50 tuition waivers to female athletes.

"Our biggest problem is money, but it’s not just women’s athletics. It’s the whole program," LeBas said.

In 2006-07, the university budgeted $529,873 in women’s athletic scholarships. In comparison men’s scholarship expenditures by sport: $750,297 for football; $113,603 for basketball; $118,806 for baseball; and $186,257 for other men’s sports.

Over the years, fans have contributed by way of volunteer days where facilities are spruced up with new paint and other special touches.

As recent as the mid-90s, women athletes were holding fundraisers to pay for their travel. Men were flying to games, while the women either drove their own vehicles or traveled in 15-passenger vans.

The inequity wasn’t always apparent to their male counterparts.

North Central High Coach Vanessa Taylor, who played in 1982, the women’s first year in the NCAA. Her son and ex-UL men’s star Alonza Allen’s sons play on the same AAU team. Both played at the same time for UL.

"We were talking, and he was surprised to hear that we drove everywhere we went, while they took the bus or flew everywhere," Taylor said. "But now the administration has started backing the girls more."

Catherine Cassidy was on the team in the early 90s and recalled the Christmas fundraisers to cover travel expenses.

It’s also hard for her to forget that her team’s assistant coach only made $9,000.

"She left and was making more coaching high school," Cassidy said.

In the mid-90s, women athletes in Louisiana were taking action against athletic administration. At UL, players recalled a Title IX lawsuit that helped level the funding field somewhat.

Nelson Stokely, UL’s athletic director from 1988 to 1998 saw the department through an investigation for Title IX compliance in the mid-90s. Stokely said a lawsuit had been filed and the NCAA made a visit to the university.

"We certainly weren’t the only ones. You can imagine in the conference we’re in now that a lot of people were struggling with money. It wasn’t just ULL," Stokely said.

In 1994, a lawsuit was filed against LSU for its failure to field women’s soccer and fast-pitch softball. U.S. Western District Judge Rebecca Doherty ruled that the LSU did violate Title IX legislation – but not intentionally.

Doherty wrote in her ruling: "Rather, they are a result of arrogant ignorance, confusion regarding the practical requirements of the law, and a remarkably outdated view of women and athletics which created the byproduct of resistance to change. LSU’s ignorance about the state of compliance with Title IX was ably demonstrated at trial."

The decision was upheld despite the state’s appeal to the 5th Circuit.

Stokely said it was difficult because funding for all athletic programs was sparse and the NCAA’s visit pointed out things that needed to be changed.

"I think it woke us up and made us say, we’ve got to get this done," Stokely said.

The lack of funding often caused players to wonder if there would be someone willing to take the low-paying coaching jobs.

Rhonda McCullough, now Abbeville High’s assistant principal, played for UL from 1987-90.

During that time, UL’s women’s basketball program’s record was a dismal 44-226 in the 1990s.

"But you wondered, would there ever be enough resources?" said McCullough, UL’s career 3-point leader with 260 from 1987-90. She went on to win more than 300 games as a high school girls coach.

"And would there be someone wanted to come in to this job – someone who was willing to go through the adversity and stay long enough to recruit kids to turn the program around. Now, though, UL is to be commended for committing the resources and the salary for Kelley Hall to stay, for him to go out and get the kids he needed to be successful."

LeBas also credited past players and coaches for not letting limited budgets impact their passion for the program.

"Those past players and coaches were part of the foundation. They are a part of this, without them if they hadn’t persevered through hard times, who knows? They believed what could happen at UL," LeBas said.

(Bruce Brown contributed to this report.)

UL athletic budget

 

Men’s Football Men’s Basketball Men’s Baseball Other Men’s Sports Women’s Sports

Total revenue $1,845,000 $400,000 $387,200 $162,100 $305,000

Athletic scholarships $750,297 $113,603 $118,806 $186,257 $529,873

History of Title IX

 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was created to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

In 1975, a Title IX regulation added specific requirements for athletics and athletic scholarships that prohibit sex discrimination in athletic programs.

Compliance test

 

 

  • Percent of male and female athletes is substantially proportionate to the percent of male and female students enrolled at the school

     

  • School has a history of continuing practice of expanding participation opportunities for the underrepresented sex

     

  • School is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights

  • Did you know?

     

     

  • Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA women’s basketball championship in 1982.

     

  • Women’s collegiate sports formerly were governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.