During a year in which the department has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, Illinois State Athletics has experienced an abundance of achievements in the Redbird women’s programs. Led by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament appearances from women’s basketball and volleyball, the Redbird women’s teams have enjoyed success in a year where athletes across the country celebrate the impact that Title IX has had on women’s athletics.

Passed on June 23, 1972, Title IX has opened the doors for allowing women the opportunity to play intercollegiate sports. The federal civil rights law states that there shall be no sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding.

Several prominent women from Illinois State Athletics’ history have had an integral part in the advancement of women’s intercollegiate athletics. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Redbird leaders Dr. Laurie Mabry and Dr. Phebe Scott pushed for opportunities for women in sports. The legacy they left was built upon by Redbird pioneers Jill Hutchison and Dr. Linda Herman, who each played important roles in advancing women’s athletics at Illinois State and the investment in those programs.

Illinois State’s commemorative line of Title IX apparel is now available for purchase at the Alamo II.

Prior to Title IX, roughly 30,000 women participated in collegiate varsity programs and the total amount of money spent on women’s programs was just thousands of dollars. There were no college national championships for women’s athletics and no organized professional sports leagues for women existed. Today, there are more than 195,000 collegiate female student-athletes and nearly $1 billion was spent annually on women’s college athletics. There are multiple women’s national championships, notably the women’s basketball championships broadcasted on ESPN. The advancements of Redbird trailblazers such as Hutchison and Herman paved the way for current Redbird women’s programs to have the opportunity to showcase their skills and to appear on the national stage.

Today, Redbird women’s programs are among the strongest in the Missouri Valley Conference 50 years after the passing of Title IX. This year alone, women’s cross country celebrated a third-place finish in the conference championships while volleyball clinched an NCAA tournament appearance for the fourth time in as many years. Women’s swimming & diving earned second-place honors in the conference and women’s basketball is returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Coach Kristen Gillespie cuts down the net at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

“Without Title IX, I would never have been afforded the opportunities I had as a college athlete and [to meet] all the great female leaders that have been in my life because of playing sports. I wouldn’t be the coach at Illinois State without Title IX.”

Kristen Gillespie, women’s basketball head coach

To celebrate 50 years of Title IX, Illinois State has partnered with female-owned businesses to launch a Title IX-inspired line of apparel. Designed by Kelli Aho, assistant director of graphic design for Illinois State Athletics, the four apparel designs highlight slogans inspired by current Redbird women’s basketball student-athletes. The first two designs, “Change the Narrative” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” are currently available in-store and online at the Alamo II bookstore. In addition to tagline-focused designs, apparel featuring the commemorative 50th-anniversary logo are available at the Alamo II. The celebration of this landmark law will culminate with a campus event June 24–26, just days after the official 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX.

Make sure to cheer on the Redbird women’s basketball team as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 18, at 3 p.m. Information regarding tickets and the fan bus traveling to Iowa City can be found online. And don’t forget to wear your red and #BackTheBirds! Officially licensed gear can be found at the Alamo II and at Shop.GoRedbirds.com.