Nov. 2, 2012
By: Aimee R. Dulebohn
Michigan State is proud to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark legislation of Title IX by recognizing the growth and history of women's athletics at MSU filled with participation opportunities, academic success, championship titles and All-American honors.
Title IX paved the way for the achievements of women's sports across the nation and at MSU. Soon after the significant legislation was passed, the Michigan State women's softball team of 1976 won the AIAW Championship, setting the stage for the years of progress in women's sports at MSU.
Thanks to Title IX, six of MSU's women's teams celebrate their 40th anniversary of the program this academic year-women's basketball, field hockey, women's golf, softball, tennis and volleyball.
At MSU, field hockey is also completing their 40th season. The program has won three Big Ten tournament championships, four Big Ten regular season titles and has played in two NCAA Final Fours. The team also boasts 77 All-Big Ten honorees and 96 student-athletes named to the NFHCA National Academic Team.
Women's golf at MSU has had their own success in the programs 40 seasons, winning nine Big Ten championship titles and having two players named Big Ten Golfer of the Year. The team has won 96 tournaments in program history dating back to 1972-73, including 30 under three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and current head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. A total of 38 female student-athletes have been named NGCA Scholar All-Americans and the program has seen eight Spartans go on to play on the LPGA Tour.
As previously mentioned, the MSU softball team helped sparked the success of women's sports at MSU. In their 40 years, the team has reached five AIAW College World Series and four NCAA Tournaments. Most recently, the MSU dedicated a new facility named after alumni donors, Ambassador Peter and Mrs. Joan Secchia. The state-of-the-art Secchia Stadium, built thanks to the largest cash (outright) gift received by an MSU women's intercollegiate sports program, is a 1,100-seat facility located at Old College Field, which was completed for the 2011 season.
After the women's tennis team was established at MSU, the program won back-to-back Big Ten Championships in 1973 and 1974, as well as 17 Big Ten individual and doubles championships from 1973-79. In their forty seasons, the team has received 71 Academic All-Big Ten awards. The ITA has recognized the program on three occasions for having All-Academic Teams with a cumulative team GPA over 3.50, as well as seven Spartans with the ITA Scholar accolade with at least a 3.50 GPA within an academic year.
The Spartan volleyball team has made major strides in their 40 years. The program has reached the NCAA Tournament a total of 14 seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 1995. The program has recognized 12 All-American players and their respective jersey numbers over the years to honor this major accomplishment. The team has continually drawn record-setting attendance, ranking among the top-25 for nine-straight seasons. Current head coach Cathy George won her 500th career game this season, one of 34 active Division I coaches to achieve this milestone. Coach George also became the first female to coach in the Division I Final Four in 1989 at the helm of UT Arlington.
With the addition of the women's rowing program in 1997-98, the team has brought significant success to the face of MSU athletics. Since 1998, there has been at least one Spartan boat at the NCAA regatta with the exception of 2007. The program has continuously been ranked in the top-20 nationally, reaching a team-high of No. 6 in 2006, 2008, and 2009. The team has won three Big Ten Championship titles and has had six players earn the title of Big Ten Athlete of the Year. Additionally, 34 Spartans have been named CRCA National Scholar Athletes.
On the national scene, Michigan State has a total of 242 All-American female athletes. Women's track and field has had four individual NCAA champions and swimming and diving has had eight national champions. The gymnastics program has sent 15 student-athletes to the NCAA championships, and the women's soccer team has made four NCAA Tournament appearances since their addition to the Michigan State in 1986.
The women's sports programs at MSU have made their mark on Big Ten Conference history, as well. In addition to 30 Big Ten Championship titles, over 500 MSU female athletes have received All-Big Ten conference honors. Michigan State also boasts 22 Big Ten Freshman of the Year titles, 27 Big Ten Coach of the Year winners and 12 Big Ten Athlete of the Year honors. MSU also has had 21 Big Ten Medal of Honor female winners, an award given annually to both a male and female athlete from each Big Ten University that demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics.
Title IX not only afforded women athletic participation opportunities at Michigan State, but also has provided significant scholarship opportunities for women to pursue academic and athletic excellence. Female student-athletes at Michigan State have taken full advantage of their educational pursuits, marked by Hall of Fame inductee Molly Brennan. A 1982 Rhodes Scholar, Brennan was an All-American sprinter for the Spartans and was also recognized as 1982's Sportswoman of the Year, presented annually to the student-athlete with the best combined athletic and academic achievements and generated respect for women's athletics. In addition, Michigan State has a total of 1,606 female student-athletes chosen as Academic All Big Ten selections. Moreover, 38 Spartans have been named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars. CoSIDA has recognized 36 MSU female athletes as Academic All-Americans and 131 to the Academic All-District IV team.
The Spartans have also had many of their female athletes represent Michigan State on the world stage. A total of 11 Spartan student-athletes have competed at the Olympic Games, including silver-medalist Judi Brown (Track and Field, 1984), Ernestine Russell-Weaver (Gymnastics, 1956 & 1960), Pamela Kruse (Swimming, 1968), Linda Gustavson (Swimming, 1968), Marilyn Corson Whitney (Swimming, 1968 & 1972), Julie Farrell-Ovenhouse (Diving, 1992), Diane Williams (Track and Field, 1980 & 1984), Llaria Sciorelli (Swimming, 1992), Sevatheda Fynes (Track and Field, 1996 & 2000), Pam Bustin (Field Hockey, 1996), and Michelle Madison (Field Hockey, 1996). Many other Spartan student-athletes have represented their country on the national team. Most recently, head women's basketball coach and 2010-11 Big Ten Coach of the Year Suzy Merchant coached the U.S. Women's Basketball to a gold medal at the World University Games in 2010.
Michigan State's signature moment to recognize female participants at MSU came when the athletic department hosted the Varsity Letter Celebration in February 2002 where 350 female student-athletes from 1930-80 received the honors for the first time. At a sold-out event at the Kellogg Center, 600 people were in attendance as long awaited letters were awarded to former female student-athletes that competed for Michigan State before 1980. The honorees were also recognized during halftime of the women's basketball game against Illinois the same weekend.
Michigan State female student-athletes have more than proven their contribution to the history and success of Spartan Athletics. Without a doubt, the legacy of women's sports at Michigan State has built a honorable tradition that will continue to flourish in the years ahead.