As Title IX turns 40, women's sports advocates keep fighting for fairness
MURRAY, Ky. — Margaret Simmons calls herself "one of the lucky ones." She said she never felt deprived of sports because her small Ohio high school had a woman's track team, even before Title IX.
But when she took her first job at Murray State University in the 1966, she was surprised there weren't any women's sports at all.
"There were intermurals," she said. "They were called WOAA, Women's Athletic Association."
So, she went straight to the top, to the president of the university.
"I wrote him a letter and said, 'Gee, there's track in the high schools in Kentucky. There should be programs in the university so we can prepare women to be the coaches of the kids who are in high school.'"
About a month later, she got the answer she was hoping for and $1,000 to build a team. But she wasn't supposed to recruit like the men's teams did.
"I said,'Forget it. I'm writing to everybody.' So I went through all the high school meets and wrote every state champion in the state of Kentucky."
It worked and because there were no other women's track teams in the state, she built a team that competed nationally and won. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, making it a federal mandate to create equal opportunities for women and men in sports.
Murray State's team was leading the pack.
But Simmons said even after 40 years, there's work to be done with Title IX.
"I hate to see men's programs getting dropped because we have to provide for the women. You've got to figure it out a different way," she said.
And the only thing she hates more than seeing programs end is seeing girls miss out on an opportunity she didn't have.
"I think it's just the opportunity that these little girls need to just grab and, no pun intended, run."