The 40th Anniversary of Title IX: Margie McDonald

Feb. 15, 2012

Laramie, Wyo. - Over the next several months, the University of Wyoming Athletics Department will be featuring a series of interviews with former and current UW student-athletes and coaches who have been affected by and benefitted from Title IX.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that was enacted in 1972 and applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX was written into law to provide equal opportunities for all genders in regard to educational programs and activities at all levels, including but not limited to elementary schools, secondary schools and colleges and universities. Athletic programs are just one area that are considered educational programs or activities.

Title IX was passed in 1972 as part of the Educational Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title IX simply states, "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 education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

We hope that fans will enjoy this series on University of Wyoming student-athletes and coaches who will share their views on the benefits and impact of Title IX.

Margie McDonald - UW Head Women's Basketball Coach, 1975-83
Women's sports in general, but basketball in particular has always been a part of Margie McDonald's life. Growing up, McDonald was always involved in multiple sports, but come her senior year of high school in Oklahoma, basketball was the sport that presented her with an opportunity to play at the next level. She attended Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas, where she earned a scholarship during her second semester

After her college career, she got married and eventually ended up at the University of Wyoming working on a master's degree in physical education. Prior to the 1974-75 basketball season, she was hired as the head coach of the Wyoming Cowgirls. McDonald went on to be the 1979 Intermountain Conference Coach of the Year, displaying both brilliance and dedication as she led her Cowgirl basketball teams to a 123-114 record during her nine-year career at Wyoming. Admired and respected by her peers, it did not take her long to mold the Cowgirls into one of the top teams in the Rocky Mountain Region. By 1979, the Cowgirls were competing in the AIAW Regional Tournament with a 25-7 record.

McDonald resigned from her coaching position at Wyoming to become the first Executive Director of the High Country Athletic Conference, which later merged with the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

She served as the Deputy Commissioner of the WAC and then went on to work as the Coordinator of Women's Basketball Officials for the Mountain West Conference.

In 2005, Margie teamed up with Reece Monaco as the color commentator for UW women's basketball radio broadcasts, which she still does today.

How did you see Title IX affect the world of women's sports?

Oh my, I could talk on that forever. I was born in 1942 in a small town in Oklahoma, and when I was in high school in the late 50's I got to play basketball, softball and run track. Very few other states had girls' sports, but I know Wyoming had girls' sports. There happened to be a girls' high school basketball tournament in the late 20's, early 30's, but they dropped it because the thought was that after WWII it would ruin women's reproductive systems. I didn't know any of that, so I went to college on a basketball scholarship and traveled all over the country and got to do some foreign trips, as well. When I got to Wyoming in 1969, when my husband was a professor here, I entered the graduate program for physical education. They didn't have any women's intercollegiate sports, I was shocked. They had play days, and play days happened when the PE teachers got all the women from surrounding universities who wanted to play together in Greeley or Fort Collins and played sports all day. When you compare that with where we are now-- with paid coaches, assistant coaches, athletic trainers, facilities, equipment rooms and scholarships for the student-athletes-- there is just no comparison. It is all because of Title IX coming into effect in 1972 and it was just amazing. And I have to say, the Wyoming state legislature in 1975 totally funded us. They gave us money here at the university for scholarships, salaries and equipment. There is no comparison from when I started and now, it's amazing.

You awarded the first women's athletic scholarship as head women's basketball coach here at UW, what was that like for you?

That is one of the things I take the most pride in. Dale Ann Meeker from Powell was my first signee, but that same year was Cindy Bower from Worland, Linda Gilpin from Cheyenne and Rosanne Wisroth from Burns. They did amazing things, they hadn't played a lot of high school basketball, some but not a lot. They worked themselves into very good teams; in 1979 we won our conference and got to go to the regional tournament. They were inducted into the (UW Athletics) Hall of Fame, as well, so yes that is something I take great pride in.

Did Title IX have a positive impact when it came to recruiting?

At the time we were just really glad that we got to hire an assistant coach to help us recruit. Most of the recruiting at universities was done close by, we didn't go three or four states over to begin with. Recruiting was just one of the pieces Title IX provided for our programs, so yeah it had an impact but it wasn't the biggest. More of an impact for me was when we were first given the opportunity to offer athletic scholarships to women because it gave validation to women to participate in all sports.

How did the exposure of women's athletics change after Title IX?

Oh big time. Everybody started talking about the scholarships they had, and not only the athletes but the institutions. The public perception of women athletes totally changed after Title IX -- like I mentioned before from when they thought we couldn't have babies if we played to now where it's a goal of a lot of girls and their parents to be able to play in college, whether by earning a scholarship or walking on.

Do you think Title IX helped with overall recruitment of students to attend UW?

Without Title IX, I am not sure we would have as many women in engineering, in law, in pharmacy or any of the other programs offered here that didn't have any women. In that sense, Title IX has had a huge impact on universities across the country in expanding the academics programs, as well as athletics. I think sometimes that gets shoved to the back when we are talking about Title IX. We focus on its public face, and that's in athletics, and I think we need to expand that and realize Title IX is one of the reasons we have women as major executives in corporations around this country, and in medical research and even flying airplanes.

Did Title IX affect your career choices as far as wanting to be a coach?

You know it's interesting; I played basketball in college and got my degree in mathematics education and biology. I was going to be a high school math teacher. I was going to raise children. I wanted to be a wife and mother and that is all I was thinking about after graduating college. I told my father once that if I never saw a basketball as long as I lived, it would be too soon. Then I had my children, and I started my master's degree and then the opportunity came to coach and man I jumped at it! I have to give credit to my husband Lyman and our three kids because back then I wasn't supposed to be gone, and they just kind of stepped up and said, "Yeah, you need to do this." If Title IX wouldn't have come around, I wouldn't have been a coach. I would have been a school teacher teaching math at some high school. When the opportunity came to coach, it was too enticing to pass up.

Do you think there can be any improvements to Title IX?

The amendment itself says exactly what I think needed to happen. The interpretation of the amendment by people of authority is what made it go. Now, even at the mention of a Title IX lawsuit, everyone cringes. We had a major one not too far away when Colorado State decided to drop softball and three of the team members got together and contacted some attorneys in Washington and filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university. I was with the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) at the time and it was a major deal because everybody was kind of waiting around to see if the judge would uphold the lawsuit against the university or make the judgment in favor of the university. Well, they didn't drop softball so the athletes won, so I think Title IX has done what it was intended to do.