Big Ten Celebrates 40 Years of Title IX

June 22, 2012

More than 4,500 female student-athletes compete annually at Big Ten schools. Over 550 women's athletic events were nationally produced and distributed last year. Big Ten women student-athletes have celebrated more than 50 national team championships. These opportunities and achievements may not have been possible without a landmark initiative 40 years ago - the passing of the Title IX amendment into law.

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. The Big Ten would like to recognize all of its female student-athletes and highlight just some the conference's initiatives that have made it a leader in gender equity.

On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, marking an historic turning point in American education. The law stated that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity."

In 1973, Christine Grant began her tenure as the first and only athletic director of the Department of Women's Athletics at the University of Iowa. As a founding member of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, Grant became a pioneer in the fight for gender equity in athletics and was instrumental in the Big Ten's inclusion of female student-athletes.

In 1981, the Big Ten officially voted to affiliate women's athletics programs within the conference. The conference immediately put plans into action - the first women's championships began in the fall and female student-athletes at each school were awarded the Conference Medal of Honor in June.

In 1982, Phyllis Howlett was named Assistant Commissioner of the Big Ten, where she oversaw all women's programs. During her tenure, Howlett served as chair of the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics and co-chair of the Gender Equity Task Force.

In 1992, the Big Ten launched its four-phase Gender Equity Action Plan (GEAP), becoming the first conference to voluntarily adopt participation goals for female student-athletes.


Phase I of the program focused on increasing participation in women's athletics and set the goal of a 60 percent/40 percent male/female participation ratio by 1997. Over the first five years of the plan, Big Ten institutions added over 800 women's participation opportunities, 32 new women's programs and three conference championships.

During the 1996-97 academic year, the Big Ten successfully reached its Phase I goal when 59 percent of its athletic participants were male and 41 percent were female. Since then, the participation gap has continued to decrease, reaching the current 51/49 male-to-female ratio for student-athletes in the 2006-07 year.


In 1998, the conference shifted its focus to Phase II of the plan - encouraging girls in kindergarten through eighth grade to become involved in athletics through a communications outreach program, while continuing efforts to increase participation on campus.

The conference created the "Dream Big" initiative that showed young girls the numerous lifestyle benefits of being actively involved in sports through various initiatives that promoted the values of confidence and self-esteem, and the joys of competing and succeeding, through the campaign's theme, "Her Future Begins with Sports."


In July of 2002, Phase III of GEAP began with the goal of increasing game attendance for all Big Ten women's sporting events. The conference created several campaigns to get fans more involved in women's athletics, including the "Catch the Action Tour" and "Get to Know Her" program. Big Ten schools annually recognize National Girls and Women in Sports Day by individually planning various festivities around campus. Additionally, the SuperFan initiative was launched simultaneously to provide financial assistance for marketing initiatives on campus, primarily for women's basketball.


Phase IV of GEAP continues to focus on celebrating the achievements and success stories of female student-athletes by creating various exposure opportunities. Additionally, Phase IV aims to encompass and monitor the previous three phases in order to continually celebrate and recognize its female athletes.


In 2006-07, the conference launched a year-long celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Big Ten Women's Championships. The campaign featured many stories of female student-athletes, teams, coaches and administrators who had made the first 25 years of Big Ten women's athletics a success.


On June 21, 2007, one year after the Big Ten had announced the creation of the Big Ten Network (BTN), Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany revealed that BTN would be the first national network to commit to "event equality" for men's and women's sports on all network-controlled media within the first three years of its launch.

During the 2011-12 academic year, total exposures of women's athletics on BTN increased 20 percent from the previous year, and the network produced and distributed 549 women's events compared to 548 men's events across all platforms. In addition, each week during the academic year, the network produces and airs the Big Ten Women's Sports Report, a program dedicated exclusively to the highlights and accomplishments of female Big Ten student-athletes.


One of the Big Ten's proudest accomplishments has been the increase in opportunities for women in sports and the exposure of women's athletics. Through its various initiatives and BTN, the Big Ten will continue to honor its past, present and future female student-athletes.