Sports Women's Sports

A historical perspective of Title IX’s influence on Springfield College

By Carley Crain

Almost 50 years ago, on June 23, 1972, a monumental piece of legislation was passed that forever changed women’s sports and educational opportunities. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other educational program that receives funding from the federal government. 

Before Title IX passed, there were roughly 310,000 women and girls playing sports in high school or colleges. Now, there are more than 3 million female athletes. Before the passing of Title IX, it was rare for athletic scholarships to be awarded to women; in 2022, there are more than 10,000 scholarships given yearly to female athletes across the country. Title IX has been instrumental for women in the changing landscape of athletics.

At Springfield College, women’s sports are dominated by female coaches, with seven of 11 teams being female-headed. On the men’s side, the opposite is true – men’s sports at Springfield are almost exclusively coached by males, with only one woman, Anna Steinman, leading the charge as head coach of the men’s cross country team. 

Coaching diversity has shifted significantly since the passing of Title IX, and not necessarily in the way some would expect. Two years after Title IX passed, over 90% of coaches were women.

A few decades later, in 2013, only 40% of coaches were female. Title IX was the start of a crucial movement, but even 50 years since the start of the law, equality in sports and education continues to be a topic of debate. 

“There should be no barrier for any person to receive equal opportunity on their college campus, which is why Title IX is so important here and everywhere,” said Sue Nowlan, Springfield’s Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator.

Springfield College was an all-male institution until 1951, when the college made the executive decision to become a co-ed campus and allow women to apply as full-time students. However, it wasn’t until over a decade later that women’s sports arrived on campus. In the 1963-64 school year, four teams started women’s varsity athletics on Alden Street – field hockey, basketball, softball and tennis. 

While a big part of Title IX is athletics, there is much more to the law. At Springfield, the Title IX office has options for students to file sexual and gender misconduct reports, either through an online form or by calling the office.  

Springfield’s Title IX staff is made up of five coordinators that work with specific areas of the college such as employees, athletics, and the different regional campuses. 

“When I first came to work at Springfield College, we did not have a position dedicated to a Title IX Coordinator,” Nowlan said. “We have had someone in athletics who was a compliance officer for Title IX, but to have a Title IX coordinator for the entire campus to ensure equity and access across the board for all of our activities and programs was a big step for Springfield College just six years ago.

“We now have someone in place who makes sure that we provide the right education and that we have the right policies in place and that we are addressing violations, so that is fairly new.” 

The college’s website states that coordinators “are trained to assist faculty, staff, and students with understanding their rights, resources, and options for filing a complaint. While not bound by confidentiality, these individuals will nevertheless maintain the privacy of an individual’s information within the limited number of those involved in the Title IX resolution process.”

The Title IX office at Springfield is also involved with other clubs and organizations on campus, such as the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and Students Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.).

Springfield College announced that this year’s commencement speaker is Billie Jean King in celebration of Title IX’s 50th anniversary. King is recognized as one of the best women’s tennis players of all time. Off the court, she deeply cared about social justice issues as well as leveling the playing field for women in sports. 

As King’s website states, “Title IX remains the only law that grants women any kind of equality in America.”

Photo: Springfield College Archives

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