The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 7A
Marissa Pollick: Michigan's Title IX hero
Daily Sports Editor
Standing in the middle of
a dimly lit room, surrounded
by generations of Michigan
athletes, Marissa Pollick can't
help but smile.
Tables of modest food, per
NCAA rules, surround her
as the 'M' Club celebrates its
newest members. Historical
showcases and plaques honoring
every former letter winner
and championship team line
the walls. Decades of athletic
greatness fill the room, with
memories of Bennie Oosterbaan,
Barry Larkin, Charles Woodson
and Cazzie Russell among the
thousands ofothers who wore the
block 'M' with pride.
Bright-eyed freshman student-
athletes fill the room taking in
their newest community. It's a
diverse group, Caucasians and
African Americans, Asians and
Hispanics. But most importantly
to Pollick, men and women.
During the reception, Pollick
begins toengage astudent-athlete
before a different conversation
catches her attention. She
watches as an older colleague of
hers, a man who played football
when her late father went to
Michigan in the late 1940s,
approaches a female athlete to
"We're so glad you're here," he
says. "We're really pleased you
gals are here."
The comment takes the athlete
by surprise, but not Pollick. She'd
spent her entire career working
toward this point as a tennis
player, as 'M' Club president and
as a professor.
"They were . like, 'Why
wouldn't we be here?' " Pollick
says. "It was just a completely
different mentality. And of
course, now they're on a full
scholarship, they were recruited,
but the perception from the older
generation is so different."
Moments like this transport
Pollick back to her freshman
year, a time so vastly different
from today that she sometimes
struggles to grasp it. And while
she'd never say so, Pollick played
an invaluable role in bringing
Michigan and its legions of
female athletes to this moment in
But what's even more
impressive is what Pollick did
for the University after the
experience she had on campus.
Because in the not-so-distant
past, the situation was bleak, and
Pollick foundherselfat the center
Forty years have passed,
but Pollick can still smell the
It was large and made of brick,
with big half-moon windows that
had weathered panes. A track
was just outside, and everything
looked new and pristine when
Pollick first saw it.
In 1974, the University had just
built a brand-new indoor track
and tennis facility that had six
lanes, a pole vault and long jump,
and high jump pits in the middle.
There were five tennis courts and
locker rooms for all the teams. In
typical Michigan fashion, it was
a revolutionary addition to the
So when Pollick arrived on
and then supporting them, which
was critical. It has to be the same
quality of treatment, which was
our biggest problem," Pollick
said. "We had no resources and no
respect. Under Jack Weidenbach,
With Michigan movingtoward
compliance, Pollick graduated
and attended Michigan Law
School, where only 20 percent
of her class was female. After
graduating, she continued her
work fighting for Title IX.
In 1993, despite the University
introducing women's sports
19 years earlier, the 'M' club
permitted women to join its
In that same year, Pollick and
two other women became the
first female board members. Their
first order of business: changing
the bylaws to include women.
Six years after joining the club,
Pollick was elected president, the
first female to hold the position.
Today, Pollick is a professor in
the School of Kinesiology, where
she lectures on sports law and
gender inequities in sport while
constantly maintaining an eye on
Title IX legislation.
"There's always work to be
done," Pollick said. "There's no
law in intercollegiate athletics
that's been more controversial or
misunderstood than Title IX."
COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
Marissa Pollick remembers havingto compete with the rest of the women's tennis team for a limited number of scholarshios. She's one of the few who earned one.
campus as a fr
with hopes o1
she couldn't we
which the U
the passage ofI
earlier, the vat
the inevitable tr
And - albei
starting in the f
The fresh sm
a new start w
given at the Uni
But the sme
"So they buil
rooms, but tI
Pollick said. "V
can literally stil
In the bathr
locker room f
teams, each pla3
folding chair a
No cubbies or b
or training spac
metal folding c
As a woman
scarce. But Pol
of a lawyer an
an early age, we
'no' for an answ
tennis at the ag
to her credenti
When she got
have a women's
out for the men'
Pollick made th
on her perform
the passage of
was a law tha
eshman that fall Meanwhile at Ann
f playing tennis, Huron High School, th
ait to use the new situation played out: Tw
were barred from partir
was the first in in men's tennis. In respon
niversity offered sued the school under t
's athletics. With Amendment. They won.
Title IX two years The verdict allowed PF
unted Wolverines play that year.
s forced to accept "The impact was
'uth: it was time to unbelievable," Pollick
. "People didn't like it, an
t begrudgingly - a lot of publicity, but ti
tor Don Canham year our school had
women's teams team as did hundreds ac
all of'74. state. ... What's ridiculou
rell of the athletic reasons these schoolsg
have symbolized not have programs includ
omen were being there wasn't
,I of promise and interest in
n't what Pollick varsity tennis
which is just
remembers the silly. bac
t those new locker is a function of
hey didn't build opportunity. st
locker rooms," That's always
Ve used the back been the case."
he building, and I That win
1 smell it." for Pollick was
oom, the pseudo- just the first step. A feo
for the women's later, she found herself
yer received a blue Arbor with the hope o
nd one uniform. part of the elite club of M
rooks, no showers varsity athletes.
- just that blue She saw them as the
hair. group with the right to wo
block 'M' emblazoned o
jackets and having accesc
top facilities and coaches
in the early 1970s, were the athletes her own
ortunities were and father had cheered o
lick, the daughter they were at Michiga
d outspoken from dreamed of becoming a
asn't going to take of the group, and to ev
'r. graduate and become par
rom suburban 'M' Club.
started playing So imagine Pollick's s
e of 10 and added when she first saw her
als by racking up room.
ns and rankings. "When I got to Michigs
to Berkley High IX was in place, but it
the school didn't enforced," she remember
team, so she tried Athletic Director, Don C
s. was one of the leading op:
another girl, of Title IX in the nation
.e cut based solely made no secret of it.
ance. But despite "A lot of major
f Title IX, there directors thought the en
t barred mixed- of this law would lead
tion. And no one ruination of college athlet
the true power of Canham's reluctance 1
up athletics to wome
evident. The women's tent
was allowed just three p
a week, typically at night
dinnertime. At any poi
men's team needed the tr
tennis building, the wom'
During Pollick's fr
year, her coach was a
from the local communi
the men's team flew to n
the women's players too
or, in many cases, had t
themselves. In hotels, th
four to a room, two to abe
Female athletes receiv
diem amounting to less ti
of what the men received.
"We didn't even play
said. "The other scho
exceeded our resours
was very embarrassing
Michigan State was
along in terms of oppor
But as the daughter
,THLETIC DEPARTMENT lawyers, Pollick wasn't g
in high school. accept the situation as su
Arbor So, as a freshman, she shared her
e same story with The Michigan Daily.
io girls "The headline at the Daily
cipating read, 'Facility lacks women's
se, they locker rooms," Pollick said.
he 14th "Even at that point, there was
recognition that this wasn't
ollick to right. Even if people weren't
aware of Title IX, they were still
really saying, 'You're not going to have
said. locker rooms?'
d it got "So it became a major story.
he next I got called into see the Athletic
a girl's Director - not the big guy,
ross the because he wouldn't bother, but a
s is the woman who was lower down the
gave to totem pole."
led that She told Pollick she wasn't
talk to the
Ve used the while that may
have been her
can literally at Michigan,
ill smell it." sn'
t the last.
dealt with Title IX backlash at
the end of her freshman year,
when all student athletes were
to receive their letterman jacket,
emblazoned with the block
'M'. The Athletic Department
didn't know how to handle the
situation, because it was the first
year women had varsity sports,
and it didn't want to give them
the same jacket as the men.
"Mr. Canham was vehemently
opposed to giving women a block
'M,"' Pollick said. "So he enlisted
Bo Schembechler and John
Orr, the football and basketball
coaches, respectively, to join a
national letter campaign through
our 'M' Club."
Canham and both coaches
sent out a packet of letters to all
the 'M' Club alumni, including
President Gerald Ford, hoping to
recruit them to their cause.
In letters held in the Bentley
Historical Library, Schembechler
ended his letter by saying, "I
believe that if this comes to pass,
we will very shortly petition to
change the award for football,
rather than give identical awards
for football and women's sports."
Orr expressed similar
concerns, writing that the award
would "minimize incentive" for
his players because "the level of
performance that the man has
to exhibit are far above those of
But after significant ridicule
and backlash, the Athletic
Department decided that women
would receive a block 'M' jacket.
So Pollick was surprised when
the women received a different-
looking jacket. Instead of the
traditional leather sleeves, this
one had wool, and the 'M' wasn't
"The 'M' was smaller and it
was sort of misshapen," Pollick
said. "It wasn't the block 'M' that
we know today, so I went into
the same director I dealt with
(after the Daily fallout) and I said,
'What is this? This is an imitation,
it's not a block'M'.'
"And she said to me, 'You girls
should be glad with what you
have. ... It's smaller because girls
are smaller' I'll never forget that
as long as I live."
Several women at the
University refused to wear the
jacket while o
transfer to oth
to receive thi
were upset wit
were offered. B
players on the t
"So we had t
to win one, m
the first classo
under Title IX.
campus, the en
went up, an
became more p
And it wasn'
but the coac
men's 12. All
and were assig
such as organiz
"Or take (I
signed by Mr. C
(also) do graph
sort of hilariou
change came it
early '90s wh
position from 1
or season, the As Pollick stands in that room
ffered its first among 'M' Club members, both
ic scholarship. For old and new, she can't help but
, fourscholarships reflect.
But there were 10 She recently reunited with
eam. her old tennis teammates - a
to play each other great opportunity for the alumni
ps)," Pollick said. to come back and mingle with
unbelievable in former and current players.
Celebrating how far women's
one of the players athletics has come is critical, but
aking her part of nothing surpasses the need to
of women to earn educate current athletes of why
t the University they have opportunities to play.
"I make a point to always
talk to the women's teams to
000 share the history," Pollick said.
"This didn't just happen and it's
[lick's years on. a function of many people, not
vironment slowly just me, and the law. As alawyer,
t budget slowly I'm proud of that because you'd
d the coaching think these changes would've
restigious. happened, but without the
11, the program law, the Canhams of the world
was so far out would've prevailed."
it was really Pollick knows it will soon be
ick said. their turn to continue the work
t just the student- she's spent the last 40 years
faced inequities, defending.
hes too. Female "I love my experience as it
eived 10-month was, butI recognize inequities,"
mpared to the Pollick said. "I continue to stay
women coaches involved in spite of it, and I
ficantly less pay think I can do more of a service
ned other duties, than being bitter.
zing travel for the "Now Michigan women's
rent or overseeing athletics is a premier program and
is a great example of compliance."
Michigan softball The athletic budget, which
Hutchins, for once stood at $84,000 for
ck said. "She was women, has exponentially
anham and had to grown. In 2012, the Michigan
ic design, which is Athletic Department spent
s. roughly $19 million on women's
gan, the real athletic expenses, according
n the late '80s and to the U.S. Department of
en the University Education.
c Director Jack But a growth in money doesn't
Before officially always mean compliance, and if
post in 1990, Pollick has learned anything,
rorked below the it's that her work with Title IX
tor in associate is never done. The days of the
worked under blue folding chairs are over, but
who held the when she walks by the old tennis
9f8 to 1990. center, she still remembers that
d by adding sports smell.
thers decided to
her schools with
nities for women.
were just happy
1e jacket, many
h the inequity on
COURTESY MICHIGAN A
Marissa Pollick tried out for and made the men's tennis teamn
COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
Marissa Pollick reminds student-athletes that the fight for equality isn't over.