Oct. 27, 2009

By Jack Copeland
The NCAA News

Fans soon will have a readily available source documenting the blooming of women’s sports during the 1970s as the NCAA begins to provide much more information in its records books about Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships.

Results from AIAW championships in field hockey, soccer and volleyball already have been incorporated into records books, and the new edition of the women’s basketball records book to be published next month will expand significantly the information it currently offers on tournament play before the NCAA created championships for women in the early 1980s.

“We’re starting with the sports for which we have records books now, and then we’ll go to the sports for which we publish championships records only,” said Bonnie Senappe, NCAA assistant director of statistics. She added that the softball records book will be updated after basketball records are completed.

The initiative was sparked by a letter to NCAA President Myles Brand from Nancy Lieberman, who led Old Dominion to AIAW basketball championships in 1979 and 1980. She asked why the period from just before passage of Title IX in the early 1970s to the shuttering of the AIAW in the early 1980s isn’t better represented in NCAA records.

That letter prompted the NCAA statistics and library staffs to seek more detailed information about AIAW competition. They soon found an excellent resource in the University of Maryland Libraries, which houses a substantial archive of materials obtained from the defunct association’s nearby headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“It is one of our larger collections,” said Lauren Brown, archives and manuscripts curator at Maryland’s Hornbake Library, who credits a retired kinesiology faculty member at the university, AIAW officer Joan Hult, with bringing the collection to College Park.

As the AIAW was folding up and its function was being incorporated into the NCAA during the early 1980s, Hult arranged to have the archives she possessed transferred to Maryland. Through the years, Hult and other former AIAW leaders such as Christine Grant, the retired Iowa women’s athletics director and NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award recipient, added papers and other materials to the archive.

“About a year ago, the NCAA approached us seeking information about who won championships, when and where, and whether that information was accessible to incorporate into its database,” Brown said.

Results in records books

Though the AIAW archive has nearly 160 boxes containing an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 pages of documents and spans more than 400 linear shelf feet in the library, nearly all of the information the NCAA sought was found in just one box, he added.

“We initially thought we’d go there to scan all the documents, but Lauren and Liz (McAllister, another member of the Maryland libraries staff) basically said, this is what we do,” Senappe said. “They took it and ran with it quickly, got it all scanned and provided us with PDF documents on a disc.”

That information now is finding its way into NCAA records books, where users soon will be able to learn not only who won championships in each of 12 sports in both the AIAW’s large- and small-college divisions but also uncover such information as round-by-round scores and all-tournament teams.

The information will be published in a format similar to, but separately from, the NCAA championships information currently provided in records books and labeled as “AIAW championships results.”

Maryland’s Brown appreciates the new resource for making such information more widely accessible to fans.

“We get a steady stream of people who are curious about when their college won such-and-such a championship, and who was on the team,” he said. “Or, who won women’s basketball in 1976, or do you have information on this or that female athlete who was known to have a career at such and such an institution – those types of questions.

“We hope, frankly, that some of the more basic ones will be easier to answer thanks to the project we did with the NCAA for championships results.”

Even though the project is yielding much more information about the AIAW than previously provided by the NCAA, a few gaps remain that Senappe hopes the statistics staff will be able to fill.

“We have results from throughout AIAW history and even some results from its predecessor, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports, but there are some holes,” she said. “So, when we post it, there’s a note asking that if people can expand the data, contact the editor of the records book.

“We’re also doing things like e-mailing sports information directors at schools. For example, if we’re missing information for a championship in 1975, we’ll ask the SIDs from schools that we know participated in 1974 or 1976 if their team might also have competed in ’75, and ask whether they have any results. We’ve gotten good information – even if it’s just knowing whether they were in or not.”

More to come

In addition to the five sports (basketball, field hockey, soccer, softball and volleyball) for which information currently is being added to records books, the statistics staff also has obtained AIAW championships results for cross country, fencing, golf, gymnastics, skiing, swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field.

In looking through those results, Senappe sees familiar names such as Nancy Lopez, who won an AIAW championship for Tulsa before the NCAA began sponsoring golf championships.

“It helps make their participation real,” she said. “Maybe down the line, while many of these former student-athletes are available, we’d like to go out and get some living histories, though I think that will be a few years away. We’ve thought it would be wonderful to talk with some of the people around the game as well, like officials, people who worked in the gyms, or media, to give us a look at women’s athletics 30 years ago.

“But for now, even if someone says, hey, my grandmother or my aunt played in that championship, it provides some information.”

It’s one more resource to go with the written histories and other academic research that have been produced from what Maryland’s Brown calls “the first decade of Title IX in America” – much of which also is based on the materials available in the university’s AIAW archive.

“It’s important, the work the NCAA is doing to preserve information and make it accessible to people,” he said. “We’re both doing the same thing and it behooves us to make sure our work is coordinated as well as possible.”

Senappe says the NCAA is the logical organization – given its statistics program and that staff’s ties to sports information directors – to build an accessible archival history of AIAW championships.

“We need to preserve the histories of all these student-athletes,” she said. “Women’s athletics didn’t begin when the NCAA embraced women’s athletics. We just want to preserve and expand these records that we have, to bring awareness to it.”