Illinois State Athletics began a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of Title IX with the unveiling of a banner at Redbird Arena for ISU trailblazer and longtime coach/administrator Dr. Linda Herman prior to the 7 p.m. Redbird volleyball match against Illinois on September 17, 2021.

This ceremony will be the first of many throughout a year-long celebration that will lead up to the anniversary in 2022. Events will recognize Illinois State trailblazers from the past, educate the current generation of student-athletes, engage our fans with memories, and lift up all that has been accomplished to give greater access and opportunity to women. 

“One of the first things I learned about Illinois State when getting here was how important this University and department were in the growth of women’s athletics in this country,” ISU Director of Athletics Kyle Brennan said. “The women here in leadership positions fought hard at a time when it certainly wasn’t easy to get women more opportunities to play the sports they love. I am thrilled we will kick off this anniversary celebration by recognizing Dr. Linda Herman for her humble servant leadership, vision and loyalty to Illinois State Athletics. Throughout the next year, we look forward to telling stories and educating our current student-athletes, coaches and staff about the sacrifices that resulted in the opportunities they have today through Title IX.” 

The year-long celebration will culminate with a celebration on campus at the Bone Student Center on June 25, 2022, just days after the 50th anniversary of the June 23, 1972, passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, which gave women many more opportunities to play. 

Female students organized their own sports at Illinois State as early as 1898, when the first women’s basketball team was featured in the yearbook. In 1919, the Women’s Athletic Association was formed with 18 charter members and varsity sports began to emerge throughout the 1920’s when they began to earn their the first “N” letters and WAA pins to be worn on sweaters. Then, in 1967, Dr. Phebe Scott became chair of HPERD for women and led the nation into competitive sports for women through the CIAW.

That move paved the way for the 1969 softball team to compete in the first-ever Women’s College World Series in Omaha and for ISU to host the first-ever CIAW National Swimming and Diving Championships in 1970. That was followed by ISU hosting the first-ever Women’s National Basketball Tournament inside Horton Field House in 1972. 

The rest of the 1970’s saw the CIAW become an institutional membership organization called the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and women’s athletics split from Physical Education to form a separate department led by Dr. Laurie Mabry. She would lead the Redbirds into the NCAA era and usher in Title IX at Illinois State.

Trailblazers, pioneers, and strong leaders bravely set out to lead a new generation of women in collegiate athletics with the adoption of Title IX, so women who followed them would have fewer barriers moving forward. Due to the passion and advocation of those pioneers, millions of brilliant, bold, gifted student-athletes have been able to showcase their talents and make a competitive difference for their teams, their universities, and their communities ever since.

Redbird Athletics encourages fans, alumni, and community members to share memories throughout the year on social media, as the department highlights pioneers, letterwinners, coaches and staff that paved the way and continue to empower women today and every day.