May 14, 2012
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
The Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls, a partnership between the Women's Sports Foundation and the University of Michigan, hosted a three-day conference last week -- "Title IX at 40: Progress and Promise, Equity for All." The event recognized the achievements of women sports over the past 40 years. It also delivered a message that women's sports can continue to grow.
It wasn't until the 1974-75 school year that the University of Michigan established its first six women's varsity sports teams: tennis, basketball, swimming/diving, synchronized swimming, volleyball and field hockey. The original budget was $100,000.
By 1995 the women's athletics budget hit $4,827,000, and today our budget for women's athletics is at $16,213,000 for 14 sports.
We are not stopping there either. We are one of two schools in the Big Ten Conference that have announced the addition of another women's varsity sport. The Wolverine women's lacrosse team will have its first official competitive season in the spring of 2014.
Since 2000, we have won the 2001 NCAA Field Hockey Championship, and in 2005 U-M became the first team east of the Mississippi River to win an NCAA softball title.
Our programs have come a long way; just ask our softball coach, Carol Hutchins, and our senior women's administrator, Bitsy Ritt. When both were hired, they joined the athletic department as 10-month employees and also had other assignments.
Bitsy had administrative duties working with athletic department travel along with her tennis coaching duties. "Hutch" had a variety of extra assignments including making signs for parking and other events on poster board. Today, "Hutch" is the winningest coach in Michigan athletics history, while Ritt is a senior member of the U-M Athletic Department leadership team.
Our first softball coach was Gloria Soluk in 1978. Not only did she coach softball until 1980, she was also our women's basketball coach from 1977 until 1984!
Look at women's basketball now.
The Michigan Athletic Department just invested $23 million in the new William Davidson Player Development Center. When you walk through the doors you look to your right, you see the men's team meeting rooms and offices. When you look to the left, you see exactly the same meeting rooms and offices for the women's team. The locker rooms and players' and coaches' lounge facilities for both teams are exactly the same.
We will also invest $500,000 for a curtain to be suspended from the Crisler Center ceiling. This curtain will circle the upper bowl and will help create a louder and more intimate setting and an overall improved atmosphere for crowds of 5,000 or less. And we are doing this specifically to help our women's basketball and women's gymnastics teams and their fans.
Bricks and mortar aren't the only improvements we have seen for the program. After women's basketball head coach Kevin Borseth decided to return to Wisconsin-Green Bay to be closer to home and family, we searched for the best candidate in the country.
We hired Kim Barnes Arico from St. John's. She built the Red Storm into one of the elite teams in the Big East Conference, guiding St. John's to four NCAA Tournament appearances. Last season, the Red Storm advanced to the Sweet 16. We expect her to accomplish great things here at Michigan.
We are setting a new standard for support and winning championships -- a standard for both our men and women sports programs. We are striving to be the "leaders and best" in everything we do.
Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. The Title IX at 40 national conference helps to remind all of us that discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated. Michigan Athletics is going to continue to create positive academic and athletic life experiences for all our student-athletes.
We will continue to grow and remain financially self-supporting even during these tough economic times. We are proud of where we stand today. And as the Title IX at 40 national conference reminded us, we can -- and will -- continue to improve.