Sports

The 50th Anniversary of Title IX: Celebrating Loyola’s Women in Sports

Courtesy of Loyola AthleticsThe Loyola women’s softball team played against four top 100 teams in the nation during the 2022 season, and despite losing all of them, they defeated the University of North Dakota — ranked 111 — by a score of 7-0.

“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 of activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

These 37 words gave women in the United States equal access to educational opportunities 50 years ago. Title IX, the Civil Rights Act passed in 1972, also ensured women in sports had the same rights as men. This opened the door for hundreds of thousands of female athletes to play sports on the collegiate and professional level and receive scholarships for college along the way — a completely foreign idea for many.

Loyola’s first female Hall of Fame inductee, Roz Iasillo, was part of that group which witnessed  the immediate effects of Title IX. Iasillo was a three-sport athlete at Loyola from 1976-1981, playing volleyball, basketball and hot put on the track and field team. Though Iasillo was very involved in athletics, she said she was treated completely differently than male athletes. 

Iasillo said the women shared a locker room with physical education students, had no access to a trainer, no transportation to games, no new uniforms and most importantly, no opportunity for scholarships. The men’s teams had all of it. 

Iasillo knew something needed to be done to change the continual inequity her and her teammates faced. After reading about a lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan in 1970, which sparked more equity for women’s athletics, Iasillo said if Michigan could do it, Loyola could too. 

She went to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1979 to file her own lawsuit against Loyola in support of female athletes. After her inquiry, a conversation was sparked — but not the way she hoped. 

“I had a class called ‘Women in Literature,” Iasillo recalled. “[The teacher] actually called me out into the hallway and said ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and she said, ‘This isn’t helping anyone. It’s harming people.’”

Following her inquiry, Iasillo was called in by the Vice President of Student Affairs at the time, Marriott LeBlanc. Iasillo was asked to make a list of things she wanted and the university would make it happen. 

The next year, 12 female athletes were on scholarship. They had their own basketballs, new uniforms and their own locker room. Iasillo said the change was sudden at first and the university begrudgingly accepted it. 

50 years later, Iasillo said Loyola has done its job in continuing to ensure equity amongst all athletic programs and is excited to see further growth in the future. 

Loyola women’s volleyball Head Coach Amanda Berkley also attested to Loyola’s strides to ensure equity throughout men’s and women’s sports. Berkley said she’s been lucky enough to have the opportunities Title IX has provided for her as a former athlete and current coach of 18 young women. 

Berkley’s mother pushed Berkley and her sister to play as many sports as possible when she was younger. Berkley said her mother did this to not only see her and her sister succeed, but also because she never had those opportunities growing up. 

“It means the world and I don’t know what I would do without it,” Berkley said of Title IX. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunities it’s provided me.” 

Berkley, looking around the Alfie Norville Practice Facility’s lower-level gym, said she wouldn’t have team practices there without Title IX. She added her team received new gear after Loyola joined the Atlantic 10 conference, along with having the ability to travel to every away game, paid by the university, and playing competitive sports for four years of college. 

Two of Loyola’s female athletes — women’s soccer junior defender Alaina Abel and women’s basketball senior guard Sam Galanopoulos — agreed with Berkley on how lucky they are to have the opportunities Loyola and Title IX has provided them. 

Abel, 20, said she sees Title IX’s effects mostly is in leadership throughout athletics. Loyola women’s soccer Head Coach Barry Bimbi is assisted by two women, Maddy Haro and Angela Staveskie. 

Abel said seeing these two women in coaching positions is very rare in the NCAA and it’s very apparent to her team they were able to be hired because of Title IX. She also mentioned Loyola’s Deputy Director of Athletics, Holly Strauss-O’Brien, another example of women in leadership positions at Loyola. 

Galanopoulos, 21, also acknowledged the importance of women in leadership roles, but specifically highlighted the importance of the pioneers before her who paved the way for all women in sports today. 

She posed the questions of where athletics would be today without women like Iasillo. To those women who spoke out about inequality, Galanopoulos said thank you. 

“It’s such a vulnerable place and it’s scary,” she said. “They reached a breaking point and they also set it up for generations to come.”  

Associate Athletics Director Bill Behrns said Loyola’s work in furthering equity between women and men is ongoing and said the athletics department prides itself on the strides it’s making in the right direction. Behrns added that in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics, there’s always work to do in furthering opportunities for female athletes and Loyola is committed to doing so.

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