It is possible that you have not been aware that 1975 was International Women's Year, so designated by the United Nations. We sense this ambitious description did not hold true in other fields of endeavor, but there is no doubt that in sports women made it in a big way in 1975. Most significantly, Title IX, that bane of male chauvinists, became law on July 21 (Independence Day, some female chauvinists call it), which meant that for women in most schools the need to hold cake sales to raise money to support second-rate athletic programs in third-rate facilities is finally a thing of the past.
For example, the budget for women's sports at the University of Texas has jumped during the past three years from $27,000 to $58,000 to $128,000. UCLA's women's budget, largest in the country, has risen to $180,000. Fifteen national championships are sponsored by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, and 750 colleges are now members of the AIAW. In high schools more than 1.3 million girls have been active in sports in 1975, an increase of 342% in four years.
Women have won the right—often going to court to secure that right—to participate in sporting activities hitherto considered man's domain, including such "hard" sports as football, baseball and soccer. Even the Justice Department's gymnasium in Washington, once an all-male sanctuary, is now open to women.
A basketball game between women's teams from Queens College of New York and Immaculata College of Pennsylvania, two of the best in the country, was watched by 12,000 spectators in Madison Square Garden in February, and an all-woman track meet in the same arena a week or so later drew 13,000. Chris Evert became the first tennis player, male or female, to win more than $300,000 in tournament earnings in one year. Women golfers played for purses totaling $1.74 million. Women bowlers competed for $50,000 in one tournament, the largest single prize—for men or women—in bowling history. Women skiers vied for $90,000 last winter, and Colgate-Palmolive is raising that to $255,000 this coming season. Plans are under way for professional leagues in women's basketball and women's softball.
Despite all these specifics, perhaps the most significant advance in 1975 was a widespread public awareness that women were increasingly active in sports and an acceptance, even approval, of that fact. With such acceptance came warnings. Last week a conference on women's sports in Washington discussed legal issues, publicity, media relations, student involvement, parent-community participation, financial support. At another women-in-sports conference last week, this one at Immaculata College, Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, while encouraging women's athletics, pointedly mentioned difficulties that could arise if women follow too closely in the path of men's programs. Paterno warned specifically about recruiting, grants-in-aid, overemphasis on winning, differentiating between revenue-producing and nonrevenue-producing sports, scheduling of events years in advance, creating a top-heavy system of rules impossible to enforce, and the like.
In sum, women's sports are going bigtime—and that can be both good and bad.
Filbert Bayi, the Tanzanian runner who broke Jim Ryun's world records at 1,500 meters and a mile (John Walker of New Zealand later surpassed Bayi's new mile mark), recently won a routine 1,500-meter race at a university meet in Tanzania. His time of 3:42.6 was respectable but far from spectacular. What was noteworthy about the race was the fact that one of Bayi's 11 rivals was Mwinga Mwanjala, who finished fifth. Mwinga Mwanjala is a woman.
The best women's college basketball team last year was AIAW champion Delta State, which seems even better this season. Delta's star is Lucy Harris (SI, Dec. 1), who is so good that when Delta played Stephen F. Austin the other day, Austin adopted the radical strategy of leaving Harris alone and superdefensing everybody else. It didn't quite work. Harris scored 54 points, which was one more than the entire Austin team as Delta won 81-53.
France is the home of the tierce (an exotic bet in horse racing in which the wagerer tries to pick the first three finishers in order) and of women who take their femininity seriously. No wonder then that the French felt history was made this autumn when the attractive Baroness Edith de Bretizel, mother of a 17-month-old son, became the first Frenchwoman ever to ride a horse in a tierce race. She finished 12th in a field of 19, but that did not really matter. Vive Madame la Baronne!
And yet, Madame la Baronne was a well-beaten 12th, Mwinga Mwanjala did finish a distant fifth, and Lucy Harris would probably have trouble making a good boys' high school team. In other words, there is a difference, and the difference should not be ignored. Two women scientists who have done research in women's sports say that most sports are designed by men for men—and that can be bad for women. In high jumping, for example, a favorite style among males is the Fosbury Flop, in which the jumper twists his body and sails over the bar backward, head and shoulders leading the way. Dr. Dorothy V. Harris of Penn State and Barbara Drinkwater of the University of California say this style is no good for women. They say that women have more estrogen, which produces a greater concentration of fat in the thighs and hips. Men have more androgen, which affects bone development and is responsible for the proportionately wider shoulders in men. Because women generally are wider in the pelvic area and men in the shoulder area, their centers of gravity are different. A man executing the Fosbury Flop gets the area of his body with the most weight over the bar first. A woman trying the same technique is handicapped. The low-center-of-gravity theory also affects women basketball players, according to Gloria Soluk, basketball coach at Wayne State in Detroit. "Men can hang in the air, women can't," declares Mrs. Soluk.
Well, it's a theory, anyway.
AIS OKKI NOOSE
In his best-selling book, The Great Railway Bazaar, a description of his travels through Asia, Paul Theroux describes a conversation with a Russian dining-car waiter named Viktor. Viktor, a hockey fan, kept pressing Theroux for information about Canadian and U.S. hockey teams, among them (according to Therouxian orthography) the Bostabroons, Doront Mupplekhleef, Mondroolkanadeens and Cheegago Blekaks.
STRINGING THEM ALONG
At the conclusion of basketball practice one night last week, Canton (N.Y.) High School Coach Jerry Hourihan told his players to shoot their customary 25 free throws and then left the gym. When he returned 30 minutes later, Hourihan found his star guard, 6'1" senior Hal Cohen, a 35-point scorer who makes 83% of his foul tries in games, still at the line. "He's got a string going, Coach," said one of Cohen's teammates.
Indeed he did. Cohen had made 167 shots in a row and the gym was beginning to fill with spectators, most of them athletes coming from other practices. While the onlookers oohed, aahed and cheered, Cohen kept shooting—past 200, past 250. When he reached 300, a girl swimmer who was acting as his retriever had to leave to catch her bus. Her place was taken by a player who had been 0 for 9 in Canton's previous game. "I don't want him," kidded Cohen, but kept on shooting.
When he reached 400, Hourihan began to fear that all the free throwing might affect Cohen's performance in Canton's next game, two nights later. He wondered if blisters were beginning to develop. "No," said Cohen, and kept on shooting. When he reached 500, Hourihan asked if he was getting tired. "No," said Cohen, and made his next 75 shots without hitting the rim.
Finally, an hour and a half after he had begun, Cohen put up a shot that glanced off the front of the rim, hopped past the hoop and dropped off. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest number of consecutive successful free throws by a professional is 499, by Bunny Levitt. The highest total by an amateur was 200. Cohen finished with 598.
BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY, JOHN
Football coaches try not to have rabbit ears, but all coaches hear the crowd when, in a fourth and short-yardage situation, it hollers, "Go for it! Go for it!" Johnny Majors, University of Pittsburgh head coach, claims that during one game he heard a fan shout, "Go for it! Go for it!" and then add, "But you better make it, you S.O.B."
The National Football League has a weird plan for assigning its new expansion franchises. Seattle will be in the NFC West in 1976, which makes sense, but in 1977 it will be switched to the AFC Central. Tampa Bay will play in the AFC West in 1976, probably because it is on the west coast of Florida, and in 1977 will jump to the NFC Central. This is almost as dumb as the present NFL setup, in which Atlanta and New Orleans are in the NFC West with Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Houston is in the AFC Central with closely clustered Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Pay close attention now, NFL. Here's what you should do. In the American Conference, shift Houston from the Central to a new five-club West, with Denver, Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland. Switch Buffalo from the AFC East to Houston's vacated spot in the Central: the Bills will then be with their geographical neighbors. Assign the new Tampa club to Buffalo's old place in the AFC East, in which it will have a cross-state rivalry with Miami.
In the NFC, bring order out of chaos by moving Dallas and St. Louis from East to West and Atlanta and New Orleans from West to East. Add Seattle to the West to make it a five-club circuit.
About the only valid criticism of this proposed alignment is that it gives Washington a pretty good hold on the NFC East, while concentrating three top teams in the NFC West. But as it now stands, Los Angeles has a lock on the West, while three top teams butt heads in the East.
Here's the way it should look:
THE LONG ARM
Victoria Station, the restaurant chain headquartered in San Francisco, presents a "Wiseman Trophy" each year as a counterpoint to the Heisman, a practice that began in 1971 when the Heisman people picked Auburn Quarterback Pat Sullivan instead of Ed Marinaro of Cornell. Although Cornell happens to be the alma mater of one of Victoria Station's proprietors, it was sheer coincidence, everyone said, that Marinaro was given the first Wiseman. When Brad Van Pelt of Michigan State won the 1972 Wiseman, the fact that Victoria Station's publicity man was a Michigan State alumnus was deemed an even sheerer coincidence.
The Wiseman has since become somewhat more serious. This year it was given to California's 6'3", 220-pound Chuck Muncie as "the man with the best potential to play pro football." Standard trappings—a plaque, a scholarship fund, a generous charitable contribution—accompanied the award.
Those who miss the cheerful pragmatism of the Marinaro-Van Pelt years and who feel depressed by the Wiseman's new dignity will be pleased to learn that Muncie is almost certain to be drafted No. 1 by either Tampa Bay or Seattle, the NFL's new expansion teams, and that Victoria Station just happens to have one restaurant half a mile from Tampa Stadium and another only a mile away from Seattle's new Kingdome.
CAKE AND EAT IT
Houston McTear, the high school kid from Florida who has run 100 yards in nine seconds flat, has finally settled the great debate over whether he will play football or stick with track (SI, Oct. 20). He's decided to do both. Last week he accepted a football scholarship from the University of Florida—with certain provisos. The most important of these is an agreement that he will not have to take part in spring practice but can concentrate then on track. Nor will he be a running back, his position in high school. Instead, he will be a wide receiver, thereby lessening the risk of injury. And his path to next summer's Olympics is open, since he will not be entering Florida (assuming his grades are O.K.) until the fall.
Although McTear seems small (5'8", 160 pounds) for bigtime football, Florida Coach Doug Dickey says, "He's plenty big enough. And he'll get thicker. After all, he's only 18."
THEY SAID IT
•Cliff Hagan, University of Kentucky athletic director, on his apparent reluctance to discuss charges of misbehavior by Kentucky athletes: "I resent it when I read in the newspaper, 'Cliff Hagan was unavailable for comment.' I'm always available for comment, even if the comment is 'No comment.' "
•Ron Hill, British distance runner, on why he likes the Maryland Marathon: "I've never run in a race where everybody gets a free meal, a free T shirt and a hot shower. What more can you ask for?"
•Don Strock, Miami Dolphin third-string quarterback, besieged by reporters after winning his first starting game: "I don't think I've been asked this many questions since my mother caught me drinking in high school."
•Dave Cowens, Boston Celtic center, after signing an autograph for an insistent fan: "Now, may I have yours?"