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First female Division I athletics director speaks about experiences with Title IX

By Tommy Simmons
On March 14, 2013

  • Mary Alice Hill speaks about her experiences with Title IX at the Univsersity Center on Wednesday, March 13. Ben Stivers | The Mirror
As of 2013, only five Division I colleges in the country have female Athletic Directors.

Five.

While this statistic probably comes as a surprise to many college sport fans, and many in higher education in general, it's a well-known reality for Mary Alice Hill, who spoke about Title IX Wednesday night at the University Center.

Mary Alice Hill was the country's first female Athletic Director. An accomplished college athlete in her own right, she pioneered the way for female athletes in a number of areas. Her talk was peppered with anecdotes - hardly imaginable to most college students nowadays - about how, at the college level, she was a self-taught athlete, because the college she went to didn't have a female coach.

This sort of "do-it-yourself" attitude came naturally to her however.

"My family was always very supportive of me," she said. "My mom always told me that I could accomplish anything I wanted to accomplish if I worked hard at it."

Hill ran with this philosophy and never looked back. She decided she wanted to coach female athletes and landed her first job at Colorado State University in 1972, which was the year that the groundbreaking Title IX was passed by Congress.

"I got there at about the same time as Title IX did," she said of her hiring.

Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, meant to combat discrimination based on gender in education employment. Hill had little trouble finding a job at CSU because the school needed a female in their athletics department.

Her insistence on equal treatment, more often than not landed her in trouble with the school, which refused to allow her to be only a coach, and demanded she teach as well. She also fought for an equal budget for female athletics - at the time CSU had $2 million set aside for men's sports, and a mere $5,500 for women's.

Her desire to go against the grain led to her being fired in 1976. It wasn't the last time she lost a job because of her outspoken support of her beliefs.

"I think I've been hired and fired more than just about anyone else in the world," she said with a laugh to her audience.

A few years later she took a position at San Diego State University, who supported her progressive stance on women's sports. Her work at San Diego was innovative in a number of ways, not the least of which was that she pushed for men's and women's athletics to be managed by one single department.

In 1982, amid much press coverage and fanfare, Hill became the first female Athletics Director in the nation. The arguments against her taking the position were as numerous as they were ridiculous - the biggest one being that she would never be able to successfully schedule football games, because football games were scheduled by male coaches on golf trips and over Scotch and cigars in smoky gentleman's clubs.

Hill proved, more than once, that her creativity and her charisma was more than enough for the job, and she found issues around just about every obstacle in her path, even netting the first NCAA scholarships for female athletes - 75 years after the organization's creations.

"I can't even imagine the world that Mary had to deal with," said Lianne Smith, a sophomore sports and exercise sciences student. "In a lot of ways, female athletes are only where they are because of her."

Hill is no longer an athletic director, but is still active in the world of collegiate sports, and talks at colleges around the country about her experiences and her successes.


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