Billie Jean King won Wimbledon for the fourth time, gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the Olympic Games in Munich, and the United States Congress enacted a law to amend Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on June 23. Women’s sports had a very good summer in 1972.
At the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, inaugural Women’s Athletic Director Donnis Thompson was anxious to not only comply with Title IX, best known for its impact in leveling the playing field for women in high school and collegiate athletics, but also to take advantage of the burgeoning and successful high school girls sports programs around the state.
Thompson had launched Rainbow Wahine sports by forming a track and field program in 1961, but the true foundation of UH women’s athletics came in 1972 with Title IX and the start of the renowned volleyball program.
Thompson hired Coach Alan Kang to scour the local gyms for talented volleyball players. One of his local recruits was Marilyn Moniz, a Kaimukī graduate who had enrolled at theMānoa campus but had no intention of playing college volleyball until Title IX passed. Moniz, Linda Fernandez, Joy Akeo, Beth McLachlin and others formed the first team in what would become the university’s most visible and successful women’s program.
This year, Mānoa athletics commemorates 40 years of wins and women athletes since Title IX. Watch for halftime celebrations, alumnae reunions, an all-female class of Circle of Honor inductees, fundraising dinners and more.
“It’s another landmark,” says Moniz-Kahoʻohanohano, now a UH associate athletic director. “We need to celebrate the athletic achievements and the opportunities it’s brought for women and created for girls.”
Alumna Patsy Mink’s legacy
It might not have happened without the determination and drive of another UH alumna, 12-term Congresswoman Patsy Mink.
Barred from living in the whites-only dormitory at the University of Nebraska, Mink had organized a coalition and successfully lobbied to end segregated campus housing. When the one time high school valedictorian graduated from UH with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and zoology and was rejected by 20 medical schools that didn’t accept female students, she decided to go to law school to mount a legal challenge.
In the House of Representatives, she authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, in 2002 renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
After the amendment passed, Moniz-Kahoʻohanohano and Dana Takahara-Dias, a former UH Wahine basketball player and current head coach, recall an atmosphere of excited anticipation as high school athletes encountered welcome instead of walls. Mānoa Athletic Director Jim Donovan remembers it differently, recalling “a lot of resistance” to women competing on a wide scale and doubts that women belonged on the playing field.
“That resistance has largely been worn down,” he says. “Our society is much better off because of it. Our whole country benefits from the millions of young women” who have learned lessons about teamwork and self confidence through athletics.
UH athletics after Title IX
Today Mānoa fields 11 women’s teams with about 220 athletes. This spring, sand volleyball will be added.
“I can say in all honesty that our women’s program as a whole has been at least as successful as our men’s program and a real source of pride for our state,” Donovan says. Volleyball has won three national titles and led the country in attendance for the past 17 seasons. UH national champions include Gwen Loud, 1984 long jump; Amber Kaufman, 2010 high jump; and Emma Friesen, 2008 1-meter springboard diving. Sailing won the 2001 national championship. Softball reached its first Women’s College World Series in 2010.
“Every time they go out and compete, win or lose, they bring pride to the state of Hawaiʻi,” Moniz-Kahoʻohanohano says. “That’s important for a small state like us. We’re everybody’s team here.”
Admittedly, inequalities persist. To balance football’s super-sized roster with equivalent participation options for women, UH fields no men’s soccer, water polo or track and field teams. The $6.7 million spent on women’s sports in 2010–11 pales in comparison to the $12 million spent on men’s sports, Moniz-Kahoʻohanohano says.
Today’s female athletes voice few grievances about injustices. “We’re treated well. My experience is great,” diver Friesen says. “It’s just been my reality.”
That may be so, but those who remember the struggle work to keep the memory alive.
“They need to understand what it was like before,” says Takahara-Dias. “They need to know how lucky they are and how appreciative they should be” to the people who supported gender equity.