It is fitting that 40 years after the passage of Title IX – the law that barred sex discrimination in education, including athletics – last night the Baylor Lady Bears set an NCAA record by being the first men’s or women’s basketball team to end their season with a perfect 40-0 record.
The Lady Bears bested the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 80-61 to win the NCAA Division I national championship.
Baylor was led to the championship by their coach, Kim Mulkey, who according to the New York Times, “represents the sporting possibilities available to women since the passage 40 years ago of the gender-equity legislation known as Title IX: scholarships, championships, Olympic gold medals, financial security and the self-assurance to be forceful and brash and daring without being apologetic.”
Growing up, Mulkey played little league baseball because there was no softball team available for young women. She made the regional all-star team, but was later kept from playing in the championship tournament because she was a girl. Her family initiated a Title IX lawsuit, but halted the legal action because Kim decided she did not want her team to miss out because of the commissioner’s biased decision.
Mulkey’s career continued to track the growing advances in women’s sports. She lettered in basketball in high school, attended Louisiana Tech to play basketball, won a national championship, and helped lead the U.S. team to Olympic gold in 1984 before becoming a full time college coach. Mulkey now earns a cool $1 million a year as a coach at Baylor. It makes sense that a Title IX pioneer like Mulkey would recruit the star of the tournament, 6’8” phenom Brittney Griner, and lead the team to the first 40-0 record.
Just to make the game extra sweet, during the halftime break the NCAA honored a number of other Title IX champions at half-time, including our very own co-president Marcia Greenberger.