CHAMPAGNE, Ill. – In 2022, the University of Illinois will celebrate the 50and anniversary of Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that created a legal expectation for women and girls to have equal opportunity in sports. Title IX led to the rapid expansion of women’s sports, including on the University of Illinois campus, and paved the way for the millions of girls and women who participate in sports today.
The impact of Title IX on women’s sports has been significant. The law has opened doors and removed barriers to the participation of girls and women in sports programs at all levels. For many decades, in schools and universities across the country, girls and women were restricted to intramurals, sports clubs and parks when participating in sports. In 1971, before Title IX was passed, only 1% of college athletic budgets went to women’s athletic programs. At the high school level, male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1.
This began to change on June 23, 1972, when Title IX was enacted, establishing equal access for all, men and women inclusive, to any federally funded program or activity, including sports. In the five decades since Title IX was passed, women’s participation at the high school level has increased by 1,057% and 614% at the college level.
The University of Illinois now sponsors 11 women’s varsity athletic teams comprised of 220 female student-athletes on varsity rosters for the 2021-22 school year. The first year of competition for women’s varsity sports on the IU campus was in the 1974-75 season with volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, swimming and diving, indoor athletics, outdoor athletics, golf and tennis. Cross country began in the fall of 1978, soccer began in 1997, and softball began in the spring of 2001. Seventeen women have been inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame.
“With the signing of this historic law 50 years ago, Title IX has opened the door to dramatic growth in athletic opportunities for girls and women,” said IU’s Director of Athletics. Josh Whitman. “Our work to provide equitable opportunity is far from done, but the progress we’ve seen across the country over the past 50 years is undeniable and worth celebrating. Here in Illinois, we’re very proud of ‘providing a first-class experience for women who wear orange and blue, and over the course of this year we plan to honor and recognize the people who have helped us get to where we are today. As a father of a young girl, I am grateful for the many memories and life lessons that await us because of the tireless work of the pioneers we intend to honor. We hope that our extended Title IX celebration will better understand, raise awareness and appreciate the challenges overcome over the past five decades to give the women who compete today equal access and treatment in the world of sport.”
Dr. Karol Kahrs is credited with leading UI efforts to integrate women’s athletics into the college athletic program. Kahrs was instrumental in paving the way for the integration of women’s sports into the Big Ten Conference for the 1981-82 school year. The first Big Ten championship event for women’s track and field took place in the fall of 1981 with a field hockey tournament. Illinois has won 18 Big Ten women’s tag team titles since that first year in the conference. A longtime national and conference leader in the women’s track and field movement, Kahrs was an inaugural member of the IU Track and Field Hall of Fame. She has also been recognized through her inclusion in the NACWAA Hall of Fame and the NACDA Hall of Fame. Kahrs retired from UI in 2000 after 36 years of service and died in 2020.
February 2 is National Girls and Women in Sport (NGWS) Day, which celebrates and inspires girls and women to play and be active, realize their full power and use confidence, strength and character acquired through sport participation as tools to become strong leaders in sport and life. To celebrate the half-century milestone for Title IX, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is using NGWS Day to announce several special events and recognitions planned for the coming months.
Title IX special logo
A special Title IX logo has been created to accompany all Illinois events and celebrations. The logo incorporates a subtle back-to-back KK as an X to acknowledge the importance pioneer Dr. Kahrs brought to the user interface campus.
National Clinic for Girls and Women in Sport – February 27
The NGWS celebration will include an athletic clinic for girls at State Farm Center prior to Illini’s women’s basketball game against Rutgers on Sunday, February 27. The clinic will be led by coaches and student-athletes from many of Illini’s women’s programs.
Top 50 Illini Women’s Sports Moments and Influencers
Recognition of Illini’s Top 50 Fighting Moments and Influencers in Women’s Athletics will be rolling out over the coming months through Illini’s social media and on FightingIllini.com.
Podcasts Celebrating Illini Women’s Athletics Fight
Podcasts featuring many wonderful stories from the past 50 years will be released on FightingIllini.com in June and July.
Women’s Athletics Summit / “How It Started…How It Happens” Reunion
Title IX 50and The anniversary celebration will culminate on the UI campus with a Women’s Summit/Meeting titled “How It Started…How It’s Going” on September 9th. The summit will feature a prominent figure in women’s sport as keynote speaker, as well as several sessions on the state of women in sport. The summit will be held in conjunction with Varsity I Weekend, with events held throughout the football weekend dedicated to celebrating Title IX. All former female student-athletes will be invited to participate. More information on the summit will be provided at a later date.