Ann Roubique played basketball for McNeese State from 1978-1982. She later coached women's basketball at the school as well. (Special to the American Press)
Photo from a McNeese State softball game in 1981. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 2:18 PMTitle IX celebrates its 40th birthday today.
On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The original law stated that, “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 educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Although the law was designed to encompass all school programs and activities, the focus quickly turned to athletics as more women demanded their chances to play sports.
“It didn’t go smoothly. The world of athletics was a male world, and to bring females into that would seem not proper, but amazingly now it seems like the most natural thing,” said Bridget Martin, the associate athletic director at McNeese State University and Title IX compliance director. “Women wanted to participate and could participate.”
Title IX made changes all over the country and close to home at McNeese.
In 1974, McNeese began women’s basketball and volleyball programs. This marked the first time women in Southwest Louisiana had the chance to compete at the college level.
“There weren’t scholarships at first; eventually, there were minimal allocations made to assist with those girls and their expenses,” Martin said. “Facilities weren’t reserved for them. Women had to go around looking for times and opportunities to practice.”
In 1978, McNeese added softball and tennis to its list of women’s sports.
Ann Roubique, who was a member of the first softball team, remembers the implementation of Title IX.
“We had to go out to Chennault Air Base to practice. There was nothing on campus,” Roubique remembers.
She also played basketball from 1978-1982 at McNeese.
“When we were playing for McNeese, there was only one game that was televised for women’s basketball, and that was the women’s national championship. I want to say then that it wasn’t even NCAA,” Roubique. “We also on our basketball team had one girl that they didn’t even have high school basketball at her school. She ended up coming out and trying out and walking on at McNeese. They didn’t even have a team at her high school. You would never have that today.”
Although the women’s basketball team had been established for four years before Roubique arrived, she said that there was still a stigma surrounding female athletes.
“We (female athletes) were a rare breed, that’s for sure. There were so few of us. It wasn’t like it was encouraged. There were other avenues you were supposed to pursue,” Roubique said.
“It was an avenue for me to go to school. I didn’t come from a family that had a lot of money, and that’s how I went to school because of sports. Luckily, my parents were very encouraging and very supportive, but there were others that were probably better than me who couldn’t play because that wasn’t the way to be. They were told not to go that route because there was nothing there for us. It was just out of the realm for us. That’s just kind of the way people thought.”
Roubique went on to coach women’s basketball and tennis at McNeese.
“It definitely had changed from when I played. There were more kids playing. Recruiting was different because there were more girls to pick from,” Roubique said. “I could see that it was going in a different direction, a positive direction, I think.”
Roubique currently coaches at Cy-Fair High School in Houston.
McNeese added a women’s track team in 1986. The university had to drop the tennis program in 1988, but brought it back in 1994.
“We discontinued both our men’s and women’s tennis teams. It might have been driven by budgets, but it did not have to do with Title IX. Bringing the women’s back only made sense because we needed more opportunities for the women,” Martin said. “To date, none of our men’s programs have been cut as a result of Title IX.”
McNeese began a soccer program in 1996 and added a women’s golf team in 2001. Currently, McNeese has nine women’s sports teams and seven men’s sports teams.
“Title IX says there needs to be equal opportunity, and with that there is a term called proportionality. There is a three-prong test. You would need to provide proportional opportunities that would reflect your enrollment, which is very difficult,” Martin said.
McNeese has a student body that is approximately 60 percent women and 40 percent men, so proportionality is not a viable option at this time. Although there are more women’s sports, the number of spots available on men’s teams is greater. For example, the football team has around 100 players.
“What we’ve done, although we don’t demonstrate a proportionality at this time, we’ve done a couple of things which are acceptable in meeting your commitment to Title IX,” Martin said. “We’ve shown a history of expansion because we have brought back tennis, added soccer and added women’s golf. The second thing we’ve done is that we survey our students as they come in, all female students about their interests in participating. We just want to get a gauge of interested females and if we have a sizable group that wants to play a particular sport we don’t offer. We look at the data annually to see if we’re accommodating the interests. They call it accommodating the interests of our underrepresented population.”
“The other thing our department has done, and we are very proud about, is that we’ve been able to fully fund the maximum number of allowable scholarships. The NCAA caps it, but we meet that. We currently have staffed our women’s programs with the maximum number of allowable coaches. Facility improvements have also impacted our success in a large way.”
In the 40 years since Title IX was enacted, both Martin and Roubique say they believe it has made a positive difference.
“It (Title IX) has made tremendous progress, but it’s been a long fight. The NCAA did not embrace it initially,” Martin said. “It’s been a long road, and we have to continue to look at ensuring that our female population has the opportunity to compete. It’s a tremendous plus for young girls to know that and I think it’s been nothing but a plus.”
“If I had to sum up Title IX in one word, it would be ‘opportunity’. Young ladies are encouraged now to pursue anything they want. Whereas before it was not encouraged to play sports or even to go to college,” Roubique said.
“Now you don’t have to settle.”