By Anne Thompson
Way back in what I now like to call the "stone age," 1975, I was a freshman in the fourth class of women to enroll at the University of Notre Dame. My rector was Sally Duffy, a tall graduate student who was also the coach of the women's basketball team.
Sally was a great rector, always available to talk things through and give you guidance. But it was clear her true passion was women's basketball. Sally put in many hours laying the ground work for a team that would come to represent the very best of the Fighting Irish.
Women's basketball was just a club sport back then. Becoming a varsity sport was a long-shot dream. The very presence of women at Notre Dame was controversial and the idea of women's varsity sports was even more so. The issue was always framed in terms of what the men would lose if women had varsity teams. Talking about what women would gain was always a secondary issue, if considered at all.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been a tireless advocate for Title IX both before and since its passage. She reflects on her career and the landmark legislation.
I remember interviewing Father Ned Joyce, who oversaw Notre Dame's athletics, about concerns that men's programs would suffer because of Title IX. I can't remember what he said, but I do remember walking away from the conversation thinking this would not be an easy transition.
In 1977, women's basketball was made a varsity sport at Notre Dame, joining tennis and fencing. These teams were symbols to the university community and the world that women had arrived at Notre Dame and that we belonged.
I am notoriously unathletic. Warrior three in yoga class is an eternal challenge. But I truly believe that leveling the playing field in the athletic department helped us do the same in the classroom. It gave us a place and a stake in the storied tradition of Notre Dame sports as we made a mark elsewhere on campus.
Today, women are a proud part of Notre Dame. The university has 12 women's varsity sports teams.
The women's soccer, fencing and basketball teams have all won national championships. For the last two years, the women's basketball team has played in the national championship game. Friends don't dare call me when the women's team is on TV any more than they would call me when the Irish are playing football on Saturdays in autumn. They are all holy days of obligation in my book.
I am very proud to say that today at Notre Dame her loyal sons and daughters march on to victory. Thank you Title IX.
Learn more: Women's Sports Foundation