The current athletics landscape at SIU might look much different if not for the institution of Title IX, which hit its 40th anniversary Saturday.
The legislation is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, and guarantees no person shall be subjected to sex-based discrimination under any education program or activity within a federal institution.
Track and field coach Connie Price-Smith, basketball coach Missy Tiber, golf coach Alexis Mihelich, tennis coach Audra Nothwehr and softball coach Kerri Blaylock make up the five female head coaches at SIU. Each woman coaches a women’s team.
“Title IX has paved the way and given girls and women equal opportunity to participate in sports,” Tiber said. “Without the introduction to sport at a young age, I’m not certain that I’m the women’s basketball coach at SIU.”
Blaylock said she is extremely appreciative of the efforts of SIU to maintain an equal opportunity for women, which was pushed by Dr. Charlotte West.
West came to SIU as a physical education instructor in 1957. Over the course of her 42-year career she also served as coach, professor and administrator. West enjoyed a successful career on the field as a coach, particularly in 1969 when her women’s golf team won a national championship paired with her basketball team finishing fifth in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
West was a large influence on women’s sports nationwide as a major supporter of equality for women in sports. Throughout the 1970s, West served as a consultant for the Health, Education and Welfare portions of Title IX related to athletics.
The positive effects of her influence are felt strongly across campus and the women’s sporting world.
Today, Blaylock coaches in the softball stadium named in West’s honor.
“If it wasn’t for Dr. Charlotte West and some of the pioneers, what the athletes have now might not even be possible,” Blaylock said.
Tiber said she appreciates the effort SIU puts forth to ensure equality throughout all sports.
“I think the administration embrace (equality) 100%,” she said. “From day one, since I have been here, I have been extremely impressed with the opportunities that they give females. We are on an equal playing field.”
Both Blaylock and Tiber said they feel strongly that equality in sports is something female athletes should embrace and continue to strive for.
“I want my players to understand that the opportunities weren’t always available to female athletes,” Tiber said. “They need to have a lot of respect for that and have respect for the women that help make these opportunities available to them.”
Blaylock said she hopes to continue to see growth in the female coaching world.
Although the number of female coaches is the highest its ever been, the percentage of female coaches in women’s sports is at its lowest mark, at 42 percent compared to 90 percent in 1972 according to the American Association of University Women.
Athletics Director Mario Moccia hired Justin Ingram Jan. 18 to take over the women’s volleyball program after former coach Brenda Winkeler was reassigned Dec. 2. Ingram is the first male to coach the team since they began play in 1961.
Messages left on Moccia’s phone went unreturned as of press time Monday as he is at the Minorities Opportunities Athletic Association convention in Dallas, Texas.
Women’s tennis coach Audra Nothwehr said she was sad to see a lower percentage of women coaching, but understands that it is a career that takes a lot of time and may not fit into the lives of some women.
“I don’t think it is because the men are better qualified,” she said. “I think women want to have a family. It’s hard to be a full-time coach and raise kids.”
Nothwehr is the only female women’s tennis coach in the Missouri Valley Conference.