Making up for lost time
'M' women's athletics strive for greater status
Cover story by Steven Cohen,
Matt Rennie, and Jeff Sheran
When former Michigan men's
basketball coach Bill Frieder
accepted the coaching position at
Arizona State on the eve of the
1989 NCAA Tournament, then-
Athletic Director Bo
Schembechler relieved Frieder of
his postseason duties.
"I want a Michigan man
Nine months later, when
Schembechler retired from the
Wolverine athletic department,
he named Gary Moeller his
successor as football coach.
"I was very fortunate, because
I wanted a man here who thinks
like I do, who believes in the
Michigan system," the departing
coach forced through gritted
Both instances share many
Michigan values in common:
tradition, loyalty, quest for
Michigan's reputation has
developed into one ubiquitous
image: football. Among the
winningest coaches in the history
of college football, Schembechler
arguably garners more distinction
as a school representative than
any of the University's past
presidents, students, or faculty
Football reigns supreme, both
locally and nationally, over all
Michigan institutions; on fall
Saturdays, Michigan Stadium
holds a population greater than
many cities, seating more fans
than any other college venue in
Only one sport has approached
football's appeal in Ann Arbor -
men's basketball - yet it, too,
falls behind football in support.
Conspicuous among these trends
is one seldom-challenged aspect:
the massive popularity of
Michigan athletics is reserved for
A BRIEF HISTORY
departments nationwide are
pushing toward the reform of
athletics. Michigan has joined the
movement, but how much has it
Former Women's Athletic
Director Phyllis Ocker, who
retired this January, first came to
the University in 1%1 as an
assistant professor of physical
education. Though Bump Elliot's
football squad was struggling at
the time, it was still more
successful than any of
Michigan's women's programs -
simply because there were none.
In fact, women's sports were
not established at the varsity level
until the early 1970s, some 80
years after Michigan's football
program. The greatest obstacle at
that time was not money so
much as attitude.
Ocker and her counterparts
nationwide bore the difficult task
of convincing their male-
administrations that women had
a place in the sports world.
Because the vast majority of
they had to like it.
"I can imagine how (then-
Athletic Director Don Canham)
must have felt," Ocker said.
"Here he had a program that was
financially independent, and now
people were telling him that he
had to support a women's
Though athletic departments
might have eventually joined the
movement, Title IX served as the
catalyst in equalizing women's
athletics by expediting the
process and holding athletic
However, the legislation,
enforced by the U.S. Office of
Civil Rights, failed to provide the
departments like Stanford's,
which receives money from'its
university's general budget. Both
types of schools experienced less
difficulty complying with Title
IX than did Michigan, whose
athletic department derives no
funding from external sources, be
it the state or the University.
In addition, while men's
basketball and, recently, hockey
maintain a semblance of
football revenues fund every
other athletic program. Despite
this, Michigan had never had
trouble meeting its expenses.
However, its first athletic
budget deficit in 1989 caused the
administration to examine more'
closely the merit of non-revenue
sports - both men's and
women's - which had hitherto
been accepted as necessary
Though no more responsible
for the economic decline than
men's non-revenue sports,
women's programs were the
latecomers to the expense side of
the ledger. With the addition of
women's teams, the athletic
department had to fund 10 more
programs, none of which yielded
even one cent of net revenue.
These financial troubles put
women's programs in a
precarious position. To build
their programs, they sought more
funding from the sole source,
football; however, every dollar
drawn away from football's
budget hurt football's chances of
achieving success and thus its
potential to create more revenue.
"It takes money to make
money," said Cheryl Marra,
Wisconsin's associate athletic
director in charge of women's
programs. "You can only cut so
much out from football. It's a
vicious circle because revenue
must continue, and investment
makes that happen."
Marra recently saw her
athletic department cut five
varsity sports, including baseball.
To comply with Title IX and
keep its baseball program,
Wisconsin would have had to
fund a softball program as well. A
struggling football program left
the administration without the
fiscal capacity to support any
Now, women's sports face the
dilemma of needing more
resources - funding, facilities,
staff - but not being able to
demand them unless they exhibit
at least the potential to earn
money. However, they cannot
produce until they get those
resources. What women's
programs therefore need is a
commitment from their athletic
departments to look beyond.
Michigan seemingly has made
this commitment. Coaches and
players generally regard 1989 as a
turning point, but the question
remains as to how much progress
the athletic department.has
achieved in the last two years.
While the University
administrators must balance the
books, the people who bear the
brunt of the financial belt-
tightening are the coaches, who
must build their programs on
budgets that are fractions of rival
After years of neglect,
Michigan women's coaches have
felt a renewed sense of
commitment from the athletic
department. Peggy Bradley-
Doppes, who recently filled the
void left by Ocker's retirement,
has listed among her goals to have
all of Michigan's women's sports
ranked among the top three in
their respective divisions.
Bradley-Doppes came to the
University last year to head the
women's volleyball program.
Because of her coaching
experience, many feel she will be
able to bridge the gap between
coaches and administration.
"I'm going to be a coaches'
said. "The only thing that will be
changing now is that instead of
coaching my team, I'll be
administrating a new team, and
that will be my coaches."
With Bradley-Doppes at the
helm, many feel the department is
poised to make up for lost time.
"We certainly started late, but
the effort is there," Michigan
softball coach Carol Hutchins
said. "It's hard to play catch-up,
but I do think we have a'staff and
a program that's on the up."
Though many women's
coaches agree the athletic
department will openly receive
their demands, they must first
determine what these demands
"Do I feel equal to football?
No. Should I? No," said
gymnastics coach Bev Fry, who
in her second year has revitalized
the Michigan program. "That's
not our goal. Our goal is to fully
fund our programs and to be more
equal with some of the non-
revenue men's sports."
In trying to negotiate for more
funding, coaches are in a position
of continually having to justify
their existence. Since their sports
do not make money, the coaches
must prove these expenditures to
be worthwhile investments.
"The bottom line is this: there
is an educational value to athletic
competition," said Betsy Mosher,
Northwestern's assistant athletic
director in charge of
"What we like to think is that
while we offer our students a
first-rate education, we also allow
our athletes to compete at the
highest athletic level."
administrators like Bradley-
Doppes disagree with Mosher's
idea of competition at any cost;
they want to see that their money
is poured into winning programs.
The desired results are
apparent. In the last two years,
Michigan's women's programs
have shown noticeable
improvement in volleyball,
gymnastics, and field hockey,
while maintaining a high
standard of performance in sports
like swimming and softball.
improvement requires increased
Every women's program at
Michigan now receives full
funding" - the maximum
number of scholarships allowed
for each sport by the NCAA or
Big Ten - except golf, which
will be brought up to maximum
next season. But improvement
requires additional resources like
facilities and staff, many of
which have been planned for, but
not yet provided..
At times it might have been
hard to convince Autumn Collins
of the privileges of being a
member of the volleyball team.
Collins will be the lone senior in
the fall; two scholarship players
and three walk-ons from her class
have since left the team.
The volleyball program before
Bradley-Doppes arrived was
reflective of some of the
administrative neglect. Former
coach Joyce Davis, who had
never played volleyball herself,
had worked at Carlton College in
Minnesota as a track coach before
landing the job at Michigan.
Many of the players felt they had
received better coaching prior to
have been "like night and day."
Though the team still resided
in the cellar of the Big Ten last
season, it fostered a much more
optimistic and professional
Indeed, many things have
improved for the volleyball
program. In recent seasons, the
team lacked a lockerroom or any
type of laundry service and had to
practice in the IM building. Now
the team plays and practices in
the newly-renovated Cliff Keen
Similarly, Diane Armento, a
junior co-captain of the
gymnastics team, has experienced
a positive change in her athletic
Armento noted that prior to
Fry's arrival, practices were
unstructured and the gymnasts
"Bev came in and knew
exactly what she wanted to do -
she wanted to change the
program around," Armento said.
"She gained our respect right
Women's teams have often
benefitted from their coaches'
good working relationships with
other coaches. The men's and
women's swimming teams often
train together, and the baseball
and softball teams have
established an effective
compromise for using the indoor
facilities. In the past, the softball
team could only use the indoor
facilities when available, but it
now alternates with the baseball
team for practice time.
Nonetheless, Cooper remains a
bit disappointed with the
disparity between the upkeep of
the softball and baseball fields.
Whereas the baseball diamond is
maintained immaculately, the
softball coaches and players are
often left to mend the field.
In addition, the exclusion of
women from the new Center of
Champions football complex has
irritated some female athletes.
"There's no females allowed in
(the Center of Champions),"
Collins says. "I think that s
"One time I walked through
the building with a trainer,"
Cooper recalls. "We walked
through the training area on the
way back and he asked me to
walk around (rather than walk
with him), and I didn't ask why.
Female athletes, like many of
their male counterparts in non-
revenue sports, are often taken
aback at some of the benefits
other athletes receive, like meal
credit at Cottage Inn, Entree Plus
on scholarships, year-round
scholarships, and use of facilities.
However, athletic benefits have
become more equitable of late.
Year-round scholarships are
now accorded more routinely,
academic support is provided
across the board, and the facilities
and coaching have been steadily
Though often inferior to those
of the men's teams, the quality of
women's practice conditions,
according to many athletes, has
improved and will only continue
to do so.
Last fall, the field hockey team
occasionally had to crawl under
the fence at Tartan Turf, its
home field, to practice there. And
like the softball team, the squad
was often forced to schedule their
practices around those of other
teams, namely men's, using
Tartan Turf. This often entailed
practicing at 6:30 a.m. and from
9:30 to 11 p.m.
But this winter, the team's
time allotment has been much
more balanced with the schedules
of other squads, including
football, which vie for the same
The field hockey team,
following its most successful
season in its history, is fund-
raising to finance, among other
things, a fall road-trip to Virginia
for a tournament. Team members
can be seen soliciting local
businesses for sponsors.
"Right now we have to raise
$2,000 per player," team member
Katherine Eppler says. "We're
having a 50-mile bike-a-thon. It's
rough, but it's brought our team
together. Everyone is glad to do it.
We don't whine about it; we do .
what we can. It's definitely a
privilege to be a female athlete at
When asked what she gained
from being a member of the
swimming team, Ann Colloton, a
national champion in the 200-
meter breaststroke and now a
graduate assistant, didn't know
where to start.
"I could rattle off a million
things," Colloton says.
management, learning how to
deal with people and resolve
conflicts... I didn't realze how
much I had learned."
participation has enriched Val
Hall, former center for the
basketball team, who graduated
"When I went on interviews
for jobs, employers were
fascinated," Hall says. "School is
difficult enough, but when you
are physically and mentally
drained in one area and have to
Autumn Collins (left) and Michelle Horri
ball in an early season match last Septe
devote energy towards school, it's
not easy. It teaches you a lot of
things; it forces you to get up and
say 'I am going to do this and I am
going to make goals.' It's very
important to make goals, to be a
team player, not to be an 'I'
But while many aspects of
competition pertain to both
genders, others signify the
distinctions between men's and
"A big difference, it seems to
me, is that men can just rip on
one another if one of them screws
up," senior softball player Julie
Cooper says. "For women to do
that, the other players would get
all mad at you. Men seem more
able to criticize one another."
Though many of the women
athletes exhibit a sincere passion
for their sport, they resent
particularly the stereotypes
associated with women's
athletics. A female athlete may
often face the unflattering label
of "tomboy" or "brute" because
of her participation in athletics.
"I consider myself a swimmer
more than a college athlete,"
Colloton says, noting that the
term "woman athlete" often
implies the aforementioned
JOSE JUAREZ/File Photo
Former center Val Hall '90 scores two points for the Wolverines in a
game against Indiana in February of last year.
college-age women had never
competed athletically in high
school, the foundations for
successful programs were scarce.
The federal government
supported the rovement in 1972
by adopting Title IX, which
requires equity between men's
and women's programs. This
forced universities to be fair in
their funding, but it didn't mean
'Do I feel equal to football? No. Should I? No. That's
not our goal. Our goal is to fully fund our programs
and to be more equal with some of the non-revenue
men's sports '
Women's gymnastics coach
means for implementing these
changes. It allotted no funding for
women's programs, leaving the
burden to each individual
In assuming this burden,
Michigan faced a unique
difficulty. Some universities, like
Minnesota and Iowa, acquire
state funding for women's sports.
More typical are athletic
It is no wonder that the 1990
media guide omitted the records of
past Wolverine volleyball teams.
However, Collins says the
differences between her
sophomore and junior seasons
It was built for football and
football only. I know the reasons
why - the men's programs fund
all the other sports. I just wish
that as a whole they would make
a stronger commitment to
April 5, 1991