50 years ago, Title IX leveled the playing field for women athletes

A trio of track athletes run around a track.
Three SCHM track runners circa 1980 run around the old CMC track. (Courtesy: Ella Strong Denison Library)

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passing, TSL is covering the conditions before and after the law changed the experience of women athletes at the 5Cs. Read the first article in the series here.

On June 23, 1972, Title IX finally became law after years of lobbying and drafting from feminist organizers and legislators like Patsy Mink. 

In his statement following the Education Amendments of 1972, President Nixon did not mention Title IX or its implications. But 50 years later, Title IX has become arguably the most impactful law passed that day. 

Title IX protects against sex-based discrimination, which most notably has impacted higher education through enforced gender equality in sports and sexual harassment and assault protections. 

A drawing of the SCHM logo.
With the passing of Title IX, Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd formed a joint athletic program.

At the 5Cs, women’s varsity athletics began in 1972 for Pomona-Pitzer and in 1976 for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (called SCHM at the time).

After just a few years of program-building, P-P and SCHM started seeing success with their women’s teams. 

In 1978, the SCHM women’s cross-country won their first SCIAC championship title led by Mary Tracey CM ’81, who went on to become the first athlete in SCHM/CMS history to be named an All-American.

A young woman runs in a cross-country race.
Mary Tracey CM ’81 led the way for many the many female cross-country athletes that followed her. (Courtesy CMS Athletics)

“As a team, we were thrilled and proud to be the first conference champions for the women’s athletic program,” Tracey said in a statement on CMS’ website. “In hindsight, we were trailblazers for all the women’s teams to follow at CMS but at the time we were inexperienced competitors who just enjoyed being good at what we did, had a lot of fun as a team and felt fortunate to come out on top. We were grateful to the CMS program for its support and the opportunities afforded to us.”    

For P-P, the women’s volleyball program had some standout performances in its early years.

Alma Zook PO ’72 was a member of the first women’s P-P volleyball and track teams. She was later inducted into the P-P hall of fame for her participation on both teams and now teaches at Pomona College as a physics professor. 

In a Nov. 6, 1975 edition of TSL, a volleyball match between Pomona and Occidental College was described as high pressure, exciting and tense. 

“The score see-sawed throughout and neither team ever had a decisive advantage. However, Pomona finally got the upper hand with an amazing score of 18-16,” the article said. 

A group of volleyball players gather on the far side of a volleyball net.
CMS volleyball huddles during a practice in Ducey Gymnasium, circa 1994. (Courtesy: Ella Strong Denison Library)

In 1976, students and faculty formed a committee to investigate Pomona College’s compliance with Title IX, according to a TSL article from May 20 of that year. 

“Whereas past legislative acts have applied to isolated areas such as hiring of faculty and admissions, Title IX applies to any program that affects students,” the article said. 

In 1992, the P-P women’s tennis team became the first P-P team to ever win a national championship title.

Team members Brenda Barnett PO ’92 and Rochelle Whelan PO ’92 recently reflected about this history-making season as part of P-P’s 50 years of Title IX celebration.

“It is incredibly special that the 1992 Pomona Pitzer Women’s Tennis Team celebrates the 30th anniversary of our national title win with the 50th anniversary of Title IX,” Whelan said.

Barnett said playing tennis for P-P helped her find the “version of myself that I like best.”

“Being a student athlete was everything to me while at Pomona, and to this day I cherish the lessons I learned,” Barnett said. “On the courts I pushed myself harder than I thought possible (my coach might remember a time or two when I just might have had heat stroke – proof of my efforts). On the courts I met teammates that will be my friends for life.” 

In the early decades, women’s teams at both CMS and P-P thrived thanks to an increase in women coaches. Jodie Burton, head coach of CMS women’s basketball from 1979 to 2011, was one such coach.

According to a 1984 Today article titled “Husband-wife coaches,” Burton was MVP of her high school’s basketball team and later went on to Cal Poly Pomona. In an interview for the article, she explained what led her to become a coach.

“I think it’s part of the love for the sport and the desire to work with young people,” she said.

After coaching CMS women’s basketball for over 30 years, Burton has since returned and is currently the women’s golf coach. 

Students stand on a field facing the camera.
In the 80’s, SCHM changed its name to CMS, which it has since retained. (Courtesy: Honnold Mudd Library)

Burton is joined by great company in CMS history, including former women’s soccer coach Keri Sanchez. After playing Division I soccer for the University of North Carolina, Sanchez went on to coach CMS women’s soccer from 2003 – 2017. During her time as head soccer coach, she was a pro player for the Los Angeles Sol and the US Women’s National Team. 

When she retired, CMS dubbed Sanchez “the winningest coach in women’s soccer history.”

Though varsity programs thrived post-Title IX, intramural and club teams continued to be valuable spaces for women at the 5C’s to compete in sports.

In an April 3, 1979 article titled “Cyclists sprint to 3rd,” The Collage (a 5C student newspaper at the time) reported on the Claremont Colleges cycling team’s performance at a race they hosted.

“In the women’s race Marce Hadjimarkos of Scripps took 5th place to earn 6 points for the Claremont team,” The Collage reported. “She also placed third in two prime laps to earn 2 additional points.”

Some athletes, like runner Sue Derauf SC ’79, also pursued athletics independently. She trained by herself for the Boston Marathon, which she qualified for multiple times throughout her years at Scripps.

On April 29, 1976, The Claremont Collegian reported that Derauf ran her second Boston Marathon race in 101 degree weather, with 70 percent humidity. According to the article, of the 2400 runners registered for the race, 300 decided not to race due to the conditions. Despite the adversity, she finished in approximately 3 hours, 50 minutes, ahead of her father. 

“It wasn’t as good as I wanted to do,”’ reflected Derauf in the article. “The weather made the course extremely difficult.” 

In 1991, Scripps considered leaving CMS when their athletic agreement expired, according to an Oct. 3, 1991 Collage article. 

“[Scripps Dean of Faculty Steve Koblik] said that the Scripps students were surveyed last spring and indicated that they ‘want something near them and in a single sex environment,’” the Collage reported.

After a couple months of negotiating, Scripps decided to stay with CMS. 

“Scripps will make a commitment to offering more things on campus, such as a soccer playing field, more facilities and physical education classes,”  Scripps president Nancy Bekavac said at the time.

P-P and CMS are celebrating the 50 year anniversary of Title IX by recognizing the women trailblazers who participated in the foundational years of their programs. More about each program can be found on their websites.

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