Forty years ago this month, Congress passed Title IX—the law prohibiting gender discrimination in education—and started leveling America's playing fields.
Between 1972 and 2010, the number of female collegiate athletes grew 622 percent thanks to college scholarships awarded in the wake of Title IX. The legislation guaranteed women equal access to academic and athletic programs at federally funded schools. Here, three members of the same family—one born too early to benefit from Title IX, one whose life was changed by it, and one who grew up taking it for granted—reflect on the landmark law.
When Patty Meyers (above left) wanted to play volleyball and basketball at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Illinois, she and a friend had to start the first female teams themselves. At Cal State Fullerton in 1968, Meyers joined the women's basketball team, but the squad struggled to find funding.
"My college basketball team won the national title during the 1969-70 season, the first year they let women play five-on-five, full-court basketball; before then, it was seen as too strenuous for girls to run past half court. Even a winning team like ours had to hold car washes and bake sales to pay expenses. My mom baked while I worked to make tuition money. I may have missed out on scholarships, but I'm a part of Title IX history: Three years after the law passed, Pepperdine started a women's basketball team, and I later spent seven years there as head coach; I still hold the school's best win-loss record."
Ann Meyers Drysdale (above right) was a four-time All-American in basketball. Under Title IX, she was admitted to UCLA in 1975 with a full athletic scholarship, one of the first granted to a woman. She went on to compete on the 1976 silver-medal-winning women's Olympic team, play pro hoops, and earn a tryout with the NBA's all-male Indiana Pacers. She's now an executive with the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury.
"By the time I had to decide on a college, my brother David was playing at UCLA—which was why the coaches there considered me. Thanks to Title IX, they gave me a full scholarship. Not that there weren't inequalities on campus. In my freshman year, we played on the junior varsity court, not on the main one like the men, and the women's athletics department was housed in a small green trailer behind the gym. But in the end, I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity."
As a child of Meyers Drysdale and late L.A. Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, Drew Drysdale, who was born two decades after the passage of Title IX, felt she could attain any sports goal.
"I never had to think about not playing college sports or having a scholarship. I was pretty sure I was going to Berkeley. But after I suffered an injury in my senior year of high school and didn't perform as well as expected, Berkeley was no longer interested in me. Like my aunt Patty and mom, I don't want to be told I can't do something. So I contacted UCLA, a school that had recruited me in the past. They found a spot for me on the track team. I'm in school because of Title IX."