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How Mimi Murray’s experience in athletics had an impact on Title IX

By Daniel Curren

When it comes to Springfield College and Title IX, very few have had the same experiences with the law as Dr. Mimi Murray. Murray graduated from Springfield in the class of 1961 and was a graduate student with the class of 1967. She attended Springfield before Title IX’s passing into law and dealt with discriminatory issues on campus. She wanted to assure no one else had to deal with the same issues as her.

Murray traveled to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress on behalf of Title IX. At Springfield, she stands as the longest tenured member of the college’s history, with 52 years of etching and coaching under her belt. As the coach of the women’s gymnastics team, her teams went undefeated to duel meets and won three national championships. Not only is Murray a historic coach in the college’s history, but she is also one of the most important voices in getting Title IX passed through Congress.

Q: What does Title IX mean to you?
A: “For quite a number of years it was my life. I spent much of my time in Washington D.C. lobbying. I went to members of the House, members of the Senate, and told them how important it was to have Title IX in the Civil Rights Restoration Act. It’s an opportunity that I thought all girls should have.

Q: Did you have any challenges with Title IX at Springfield?
A: “Oh yes. That’s why I filed the Title IX lawsuit. I thought that was women’s athletic department was so grossly discriminated against.

Q: What were some examples of that?
A: “Number of teams, number of players, coaches, money budgets, everything was less for the women.”

Q: What were some challenges you faced in D.C.?
A: “Just trying to talk some men into how important women’s athletics was. They all say ‘oh yeah, we really believe in it’ and then they never really do anything about it. I had a friend who said ‘talks cheap.’”

Q: What has meant the most to you in your 50 years at Springfield College?
A: “The students. I come back and campus and it’s like getting a shot of vitamin D. I love our students. Most of them have such a great attitude. I taught here for 52 years and that’s why.”

Q: As someone who never got to play varsity sports here, what did it mean for you to coach and give something that you were never able to have yourself?
A: “I was so happy they had an opportunity. It’s just the most wonderful experience that girls and women can finally have a chance to play. Just play. Didn’t have a national championship. We were fortunate enough to win a number of them. But the fact that girls could play.”

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from coaching?
A: “I was just thinking, we were fortunate to go to a number of national championships. On one of them, somebody called a bomb threat, one of the other teams we were better than on our flight. They made us turn around and we landed in Moline, Illinois. We all had to get off the plane and go into the terminal. If you had to go to the bathroom, and FBI agent had to take you to the women’s room since there was a bomb threat. It was so remarkable, one of my athletes kept going to the backroom because she had gotten a crush on this FBI agent. So, she kept going up to him and saying ‘I really need to go to the bathroom’ so he would escort her. So then, this FBI agent came up to me and said ‘coach I think one of the women on your team has a urinary infection’ and I said “no, she just has a crush on you.”

Q: How did you celebrate Title IX’s passing in 1972?
A: “I think I was extremely relieved, of course. I couldn’t believe it but I knew we had to keep fighting, with everything that had happened.”

Q: What do you think of the progress that has been made at Springfield College in the time you’ve been here?
A: “It’s amazing, but we still have a ways to go, but it’s been amazing and I think we’ve accomplished a whole lot.”

Q: What do you think still has to be done?
A: I think we have to get into all these budgets. They’re all written down in the Title IX stuff but I think we can continue to add to women’s athletics. Our director of athletics, Craig, has done a fabulous job. I give him a lot of credit, and his whole staff, but it needs to continue. It’s never enough. We also need to watch out for the forces on the outside that might overrule Title IX just like they did Roe vs Wade. That all has to do with women’s rights. Abortion is a women’s right and Title IX is a women’s right.”

Q: What does your ideal world look like as far as Title IX?
A: “Equity in every program.”

Photo Courtesy Springfield College

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