April 13, 2012
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.
Joe Legerski - Cowgirl Head Women's Basketball Coach, 2003-Present
Wyoming head women's basketball coach Joe Legerski has been coaching women's basketball for nearly 30 years, and has appreciated every opportunity it has provided him. Legerski's first coaching job was from 1984-86 as the head women's basketball coach at Rock Springs High School in Rock Springs, Wyo. Legerski's next opportunity was as the head women's coach at Western Wyoming Community College, also located in Rock Springs, for a year. The following season, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Wyoming, as an assistant coach for four years under then head coach Chad Lavin. Legerski moved on to coach at the University of Utah, first as an assistant coach from 1992-98 and then as the associate head coach from 1999-2003. After a very successful career at Utah, Legerski returned to UW to coach the Cowgirls, where he recently completed his ninth season.
During his time at Wyoming, he has a current record of 172-107, which is just three wins shy of tying the all-time record of 175 victories held by Lavin. Under Legerski's guidance, he has led the program to seven winning seasons out of the past nine years, including five 20-win seasons. The Cowgirls enjoyed back-to-back, 20-win seasons twice, including a school best record of 27-9 in 2006-07. Wyoming has earned postseason tournament bids five times during Legerski's era, including capturing the 2007 WNIT Championship and earning the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2008. He has coached 15 All-Mountain West Conference honorees, two Honorable Mention All-Americans and one Mountain West Player of the Year. The Cowgirls have also performed extremely well in the classroom. A total of 52 Cowgirls have achieved Academic All-Mountain West honors during Coach Legerski's time as head coach, while 37 individuals have been named Mountain West Scholar-Athletes.
What were the major changes you noticed after Title IX came into effect?
Joe Legerski: The biggest change was to allow girls the opportunity to participate. I can think back to being in high school in the early 70's, and females at that time were able to participate in intramurals but nothing more. So, the opportunity to participate is probably the biggest change and one that seems commonplace today.
Do you notice a difference in how young girls view participation in women's athletics today versus years ago?
Joe Legerski: What I've seen in terms of the change in youth participation in athletics is it has become, once again, commonplace for that to happen today. Girls start at a very early age with whatever activity they're interested in and it's the norm.
Was has the impact of Title IX been when it comes to recruiting?
Joe Legerski: I think what's happened over the 40 years with Title IX is there has been a significant change in expectations. Young girls are growing up with the hope that they can participate beyond high school and have a scholarship to do it. When I look at that change, young girls today understand that their participation can lead to an education that is funded rather than not.
How has the exposure of women's athletics changed over the years due to Title IX?
Joe Legerski: The number of participants continues to grow. I'm involved with the sport of basketball. It has the highest number of girls participating in it, and that participation level is something that continues to grow.
Did Title IX have any affect on your career choices?
Joe Legerski: I look at it more from the standpoint of what it has done for my own daughter. I have a high school daughter who is able to participate and excel in whatever she wants to do. I think that's what's important about what Title IX has been able to accomplish. It gives her the same opportunities that it gives my son, and I see the growth in her as a young woman. That opportunity has been so important for her and other young women.
Do you think Title IX has had a positive effect on recruitment in terms of students for UW?
Joe Legerski: It gives us the opportunity to fund an education for a young woman, while she continues to participate in something that she enjoys doing. Now, when we go out to recruit, we have a scholarship in hand to offer someone to attend this university, while at the same time offering them the opportunity to participate in a sport they love.
Do you think there can be any improvements to Title IX?
Joe Legerski: I think there is always room to improve in whatever we're doing. There will always be advancements made. Over time, Title IX has improved from what it was 40 years ago. I have a feeling it's going to continue to influence positive change. It has been and will continue to be very positive in that it has increased opportunities for women.
Dale Ann Meeker