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Behind the Display: Title IX and the History of Women’s Basketball at Davidson

Behind the Display: Title IX and the History of Women’s Basketball at Davidson


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Display Case One.

Hi! This is Ellen Huggins, current JEC archives fellow. In honor of the 50th anniversary of coeducation and Title IX at Davidson College, the Archives and Special Collections are looking back on the history of women’s athletics and the impact of Title IX. This exhibit was originally meant to highlight one of the newest additions to our oral history collection, a series of recently released interviews recorded with staff and players belonging to the 1998-1999 Davidson women’s basketball team. The exhibit eventually evolved into a deeper look into the history of women’s basketball at Davidson and how the trajectory of the varsity team has been affected by the college’s relationship to Title IX.  You can use this post as a way to navigate the exhibit, or just as a way to learn more about the research that went into the exhibit making process!  

Case One: History of Women’s Basketball at Davidson College (1973-1986)

First Half of Display Case One. Figures 1-5.

(Timeline) 1973- Board of trustees votes for basketball to be one the of the first varsity sports for women at Davidson College along with field hockey. 

Figures 1 and 2) In this oral history excerpt, Emil Parker talks about Davidson College’s trustee board’s conception of the first female athletic award in the 1970s, the Rebecca E. Stimson award, and the difficulty of naming the award without a legacy of female athletics at the college. (click here for Parker’s interview). Stimson was a student at the time of the award’s creation, and she speaks about her mixed reaction to being the namesake of the award in her oral history interview, collected as part of the “Women’s Oral History Project.” (click here for Stimson’s interview).

Figure 3) Davidson College’s plan to comply with Title IX circa 1973, which includes how to divide the newly created women’s athletic programs into divisions and club classifications. Davidson College’s plan for the women’s basketball program was for the team to be a part of the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) league as Division III. (You can listen to Emil Parker’s oral history for more information on the college’s experience while in the AIAW.)  

Figure 4) Images from women’s basketball at Davidson while the team was a part of the AIAW, or the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, in the period between 1973-1982. (Both images are circa 1975, courtesy of Davidson Archives and Special Collections). 

Figure 5) Promotional brochure from the 1980/81 season of Davidson women’s basketball, as an AIAW program. According to the program, one of the benefits of being a part of the AIAW Division III team was that it was a non-scholarship program. This meant female athletes were able to play basketball on a competitive level but could also join other sports teams at Davidson which many female athletes like Rebecca Stimson, who lettered in three sports during her time at Davidson, took advantage of.  

Second Half of Display Case One. Figures 6-8.

1982- The NCAA began to accept women’s sports into their divisions, and the women’s basketball team switched from the AIAW as a Division III team to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) league as a Division III program.  

One reason for Davidson College’s push for women’s basketball to leave the AIAW and become a member of the NCAA was to join the Southern Conference tournament, which held its first tournament for NCAA women’s basketball in the 83/84 season. (click here to learn more about the history of the Southern Conference)

1983- The women’s basketball team joins the Southern Conference in 1983, along with the women’s tennis, field hockey and swim teams.  

Figure 6) Second set of pictures: Pictures of women’s basketball program while a part of the NCAA, or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, post 1982. (The image of the team player is from 1985, and the team picture is from 1984, Courtesy of Davidson College Archives and Special Collections.) 

1986- Women’s basketball team wins the Division III State Championship.  

Figure 7) From the 1985/86 Davidson College Quips and Cranks yearbook, “Ladycats Achieve Winning Season.” Despite winning the state Division III championship that year (see the Davidsonian headline above, “Lady Cats take first home victory”), the 1985/86 women’s basketball varsity season would be the last at Davidson until the team’s reinstatement in 1992.  

1986- The women’s basketball team is cut from the varsity basketball program due to budgetary constraints and inadequate resources to maintain a competitive team. 

Despite an elevated level of interest in the women’s basketball team and the program’s continued success, women’s basketball was cut as a varsity sport at Davidson College in 1986. This change was possible because Davidson College already had six varsity sports for women other than basketball, which was enough to retain their Division I NCAA membership. The varsity women’s basketball team was brought back in part as the result of a 1991 rule change by the NCAA regarding women’s sport divisions. (click here to learn more about the history of NCAA divisional regulations).

1991- Women’s basketball is brought back to Davidson with Coach John Filar as a varsity NCAA Division I team.  

Figure 8) Image of Coach John Filar from the 1992 Quips and Cranks yearbook, with the women’s varsity basketball team of 1991/92. The caption reads, “Coach Filar is excited to bring women’s basketball back to Davidson.” John Filar’s oral history was collected in 1999 by Eileen Dwyer for her senior research project, “History of Women’s Athletics at Davidson College, Grassroots Movements and Institutional Support,” and is featured in the following case in the exhibit. (click here for the Womens Athletics oral history collection).

Interested in the history of women’s athletics and basketball at Davidson? Check out these entries currently in the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections Encyclopedia: Women’s Athletics, Women’s Basketball.

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