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50 Years of Women's Athletics
Changing the Course of Women’s Athletics
Organized women’s intercollegiate athletics in Kansas in the 1960s was little more than a frequent topic of conversation among the state’s physical education instructors. It was considered a pipedream and often dismissed by skeptics who considered it unladylike and unnecessary.
Mary Virginia (Ginny) Bevan ’56, a firebrand Physical Education instructor at Kansas Wesleyan, and a handful of other like-minded women in Kansas weren’t satisfied with a status quo they considered an equality issue when compared to the far more advanced and enhanced status of men’s collegiate athletics.
Words eventually turned to action – their dissatisfaction echoing the times of a decade considered the most tumultuous and divisive in the history of the United States.
The Early Years
The wheels of change in Kansas finally gained traction in the fall of 1968, when Bevan and representatives from approximately a dozen other institutions gathered at the Rock Springs 4H Ranch outside of Junction City. The group decided to set a formal meeting in the spring of 1969 at a cabin near Emporia. It was here that their work led to the birth of the Association for Kansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports – the state’s first organization for women’s athletics. At the national level, the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) was formed and the AKWIS affiliated with it.
State institutions began to form teams, and regular AKWIS meetings were held for the next four years.
An Uphill Battle
The years between 1969-72 were pivotal for the schools in Kansas. Like their counterparts across the nation, coaches and athletes got by with the talent and resources that were available. Operating funds often came from coaches themselves. Bevan’s first athletic budget was $600 of her own money.
Athletic scholarships didn’t exist, and neither did recruiting. Rosters were filled with students who showed up to play – no tryouts required. Teams sponsored car washes and bake sales to pay for transportation. Athletes purchased their own uniforms, but warm-ups were not even a consideration.
“We wore t-shirts we bought ourselves, and we glued felt letters on them for our uniforms,” Bevan said. “We rode in my blue bomb almost everywhere we went,” said Bevan, who coached five sports at various times at KWU from 1968-78.
Competition knew no boundaries. The Coyotes played teams from Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State and Washburn, along with other KCAC institutions in various sports.
And there was the ongoing stigma of women doing something that wasn’t necessarily considered appropriate for the times. For those who competed, though, it didn’t matter.
“You wanted to do well, and it was at a time when it wasn’t neat to be a female athlete,” said Mary Lou Morgan ’70, who was a member of the first women’s track and basketball teams at KWU and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I didn’t care because liked it.” She started volleyball at Manhattan High School, won 499 games in 17 years as the Indians’ coach, and founded the Kansas Volleyball Association.
Title IX Creates Momentum
The breakthrough came nationwide on June 23, 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed the landmark Title IX amendment that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. It gave the women’s sports movement the muscle needed to officially move forward.
“The purpose was to provide opportunity for women to have a vehicle in which to perfect and enjoy sports,” Bevan said. “Co-curricular sports, if they’re done right, can transform young women, just as it can men. I felt like we were making things better for our students.”
Bevan’s budget doubled post-Title IX to $1,200, which was spent on warm-ups.
Paving the Way
Marcia Troutfetter ’73, who played volleyball and softball and later coached both sports after Bevan stepped down to focus on teaching, credited Cel Muff (longtime Marymount College and Salina High coach) and Bevan as positive role models. Troutfetter went on to coach high school and middle school volleyball in the Salina school system for 34 years. She said Title IX gave female athletes credibility, administrators hired better coaches, and additional sports were offered.
“I’m proud of that movement and of being a role model for my daughters,” Bevan said.
The historic efforts made by Bevan and many other administrators from Kansas institutions created inroads for women in athletics at Kansas Wesleyan throughout the past five decades. The female students of the early 70s, who dared to compete as an underrepresented population in college athletics, opened the door for women to pursue their passion for sports and to inspire the next generation of leaders and achievers in intercollegiate athletics.
50 Years of Women's Athletics
A Salute to Women in Sports
Saturday, October 12, 2019 | 7-9 p.m.
The Stevens Center at St. John's Military School
The launch event of our yearlong celebration is a dinner on Saturday of Homecoming & Family Weekend, honoring Dr. Mary Virginia "Ginny" Bevan, whos foresight and tenacity helped lead the statewide efforts to provide opportunities for women to compete in intercollegiate athletics. All are welcome to attend, and we extend a special invitation to female athletes, coaches and mentors throughout the past five decades who have been a part of the history of women in athletics at Kansas Wesleyan University.