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Title IX: Hicks Knows Herd Women Have Come a Long Way

Marshall's Dot Hicks

June 18, 2012

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

By Jack Bogaczyk


HUNTINGTON – The above words became federal law on Friday, June 23, 1972, as part of Section 1681 of the Education Amendments signed by President Richard Nixon … coincidentally six days after the second Watergate break-in.

It’s Title IX.

And that, said Dr. Dot Hicks, “was the biggest boost for women’s athletics … ever.”

Hicks would know.

Recognized as the founder of women’s athletics at Marshall University, the retired professor and administrator with three decades at MU has seen Thundering Herd women’s sports and female athletics in general flourish over four decades.

In this week of the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, it’s a great time to look at then and now, because as someone once said, you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.

People like Hicks, Linda Holmes, Donna Lawson, Judy Southard and Beatrice Crane Banford – the current MU Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator – have been at the forceful forefront for the Herd women’s sports programs, which now number 10 (basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, cross country and track and field, indoor and outdoor).

“It’s stunning to me to see what we have here now,” said Hicks, for whom the Herd softball stadium is named, and a vibrant 82-year-old who still follows – and is in attendance at – many Marshall athletic events.

Marshall is fully funded in women’s athletic scholarships for those 10 sports, at 99 full-time equivalencies. This past season, more than 225 women played NCAA sports for the Herd.

Back in the day, when Coach Lawson’s so-called “Green Gals” went 7-0 in the first intercollegiate basketball season for Marshall – it was 1969-70 – fewer than 30,000 women played college sports nationally. Today, the number exceeds 191,000 at NCAA schools (not counting NAIA institutions).

How did the Herd get from there to here?

Hicks can tell the story better than anyone, so let’s go back to ’69, when she arrived at Marshall after 14 years at East Tennessee State, to teach women’s physical education… and more.

“We’d had lost of women’s sports at East Tennessee, a volleyball tournament, basketball tournament and we played tennis tournaments,” Hicks said, “but mostly they were play days. I came to Marshall and we had nothing here and there was very little in the state as far as women’s sports.

“I had a great (PE) staff that was willing to coach, so I talked them into starting teams. We had basketball, volleyball, tennis, track and field, softball, badminton, field hockey. I really leaned on my faculty, and the women’s and men’s (PE) departments were separate at the time, so we had to go our own way.”

Hicks garnered support and lobbied with other state colleges, most of which were in the WVIAC, and a group of women in physical education “went before the presidents of state colleges and universities and asked for their support, and they gave it,” Hicks said. “So, we started playing among the colleges.”

Hicks “vision” was the same as the American Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, which formed the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). Marshall played in the AIAW Midwest Region. Some sports that waned in popularity – like field hockey and badminton – were eliminated.

So, Marshall wanted to play women’s athletics, but it took quarters to make the Herd run, jump and hit.

“We just didn’t have financial support, or as much as we needed, so in 1970 I went before the student fees committee and asked them to give us some money, and they gave us 25 cents per student,” Hicks said. “I think the first year, myself and the other faculty members coaching probably spent more than we made, but we did it for the girls. And we didn’t get paid as coaches, and we weren’t getting counted release time.

“The next year we went up to 50 cents, then 65, and we didn’t get any uniforms (from the school) still for a while. We did a lot of car washes, but it was fun and they kind of had the same philosophy as I did, because they had played sports as girls, Donna Lawson and the others, in high school, played all of these sports.

“We didn’t have any problem getting athletes, but we couldn’t recruit at that time. The women came to tryouts, yes, but we didn’t have any trouble getting student-athletes because we had 325 majors at Marshall then.

“In fact, some of the best women’s athletes we’ve ever had at Marshall were in that era, the first five years we started the program.”

When Hicks is asked about a “moment” when women’s athletics arrived at Marshall, a day when the Herd first made a name for itself in female competition, there is no hesitation … and it isn’t a game or a match that was played, or a championship.

It was a big win, nonetheless.

“No question in my mind,” Hicks said when asked for a watershed. “Our president then, Dr. Robert B. Hayes, in 1974, knew there would be issues with Title IX in the future, with his insight and leadership. At that time, it wasn’t very popular for women’s sports to join the men’s sports and I got chastised many, many times for bringing this up.

“But Dr. Hayes talked with our athletic director, Joe McMullen, and Joe was willing to take us under the wing of the Department of Athletics. That was really the springboard, a really strong starting point for what we could accomplish.

We got two scholarships that year. I gave one to a local girl (Nancy Bunton) in golf and one to a senior (Kathy Haas) in basketball. We got travel, medical help, everything we had not had before, as far as I was concerned. With the possibility of us improving, we went from 65 cents to $3 per student (fees).

“What was important, I thought, was by getting under the Department of Athletics with the men, we were way ahead of other women’s programs. We were not concerned about what people said about us, and so forth. I just let it roll off because my staff and I were only concerned about what was best for our student-athletes.

“I think that was a big historical point at Marshall. So when the NCAA came along and took over women’s athletics and the AIAW was eliminated in 1982, we were already prepared. We knew the rules, we knew how to recruit. I think that was very important.

That 1974-75 school year was a busy one for Hicks. Not only was she the Herd’s Associate AD for Women, she also coached golf, and when the men’s and women’s PE departments were merged, she chaired that.

Hicks said that after that women’s collegiate sports transition was made from AIAW to NCAA, the Herd women had another plus besides having been under the athletics umbrella since 1974-75.

“Lee Moon (the Marshall athletic director from 1988-96) deserves a lot of credit,” Hicks said. “He got us going, came in and presented a five-year plan with salaries, travel, everything, except we had no money for recruiting. A lot of people complain about Lee, but he did what he said he would do, gave us a good plan and fulfilled it.”

Hicks said that 30 years after the NCAA grabbed hold of women’s athletics, she’d like to see the organization make one major change in its scholarship plan, and make all grants full rides “for men and women,” she said, as they are for football and men’s and women’s basketball .. no divvying up a scholarship among multiple athletes.

As for the program she helped launch three years before Title IX was passed and signed, Hicks said the status quo is good, but growth is needed in one fashion.

“I think the sports we have now are good sports for Marshall to have,” she said. “I can’t see any reason to add new sports or eliminate or change any of the ones we have. They’re the sports that are in the high schools in the state, and you really should offer at the colleges and universities in the state things similar to give young women an opportunity to go to school in the state and use their athletic ability.

“We can always improve what we do have, help those positions, those student-athletes, by giving them more support for recruiting, and travel and salaries, things like that. I never dreamed we’d be where we are, but I’d rather see us help what we have, rather than add anything.

“We need to better support what we have. We’ve made great strides here at Marshall, but we need to keep going.”