A 1988 commitment of funds for programs and scholarships and the hiring of full-time coaching staff for womens athletics is beginning to pay off, the Regents were told at their December meeting.
The Michigan tradition and model in athletics is very, very special, said President James J. Duderstadt in opening a presentation by Athletic Department staff in Schembechler Hall. We are committed to quality, excellence and leadership and deeply committed to building a womens program that is comparable to the mens program.
Margaret J. Bradley-Doppes, associate director for womens athletics, told the Regents that the womens program for years had been the weak link in the athletic program. History has haunted us, she noted. There were no good programs in the past.
The process to build a strong program is slow but working, Bradley-Doppes said, citing three Big Ten championship teams in womens athletics and recognition of three coaches as the best in the Big Ten.
She also noted that the U-M is ahead of other schools in working toward a Big Ten conference goal of 40 percent women participants and 60 percent men participants in intercollegiate sports. That goal is to be reached in the next five years.
Tradition says we wont accept anything but excellence, but the mens program is hard to live up to, she added.
Bradley-Doppes noted that the work toward gender equity is not a numbers game for the Athletic Department. We want a positive athletic opportunity for students, not just numbers. Reaching gender equity is a delicate juggling act. If the football program is deleted from counts, the U-M shows a 50/50 split of men and women in sports.
The mens football program funds the department, Bradley-Doppes noted, and if that is jeopardized by reducing numbers, then all programs are jeopardized.
A great deal has been done in the past four years to increase awareness of the womens athletics program, Bradley-Doppes said, starting with serious marketing efforts that include a monthly luncheon series featuring women athletes and the coaches. She also has developed a bridging program for women of color and a mentor program in all womens sports.
Also adding to the success of the program, Bradley-Doppes said, is the fact that womens athletics are now socially acceptable. There is growth in womens programs in high school and they feed to us.