50 years later: Title IX’s impact on The Hill

Title IX anniversary
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:07 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - If you write a book about WKU Athletics, one of the very first chapters is Title IX.

Over 50 years after the landmark federal law was passed, the impact was across the board at colleges and universities. The Hill at WKU is no exception.

”If there was a book on the history of WKU Athletics, a lot of chapters would be on women’s athletics,” WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart told WBKO in a sit-down interview.

For one former Hilltopper who now works for the program, Title IX is very personal to her.

“Title IX changed the trajectory of my life,” WKU Assistant Director of Development Kathryn Smith said.

Smith, a third-generation Hilltopper who played softball at WKU from 2014 to 2017, is the granddaughter of former WKU President Dero Downing. Downing was president in 1972 when Title IX passed into law, opening the floodgates for women’s athletics on The Hill.

“My grandfather’s dream of everyone having an opportunity to own a degree has come true,” Smith said.

There’s several different places you can start to examine the impact: The Lady Toppers three Final Four appearances, WKU Softball’s three NCAA Regional Tournament bids or Travis Hudson’s 14 NCAA Volleyball Tournament runs are just scratching the surface.

“It’s not easy, but the players make it look easy,” Stewart added.

While WKU trails other Group of 5 and other Power 5 programs in funding and budgeting, Stewart says that’s far from an excuse for the school’s success.

“More money doesn’t mean you’re better. Just because you have a bigger house, doesn’t mean you have a better house.”

Thankfully for WKU’s women athletics programs, the school has been working to increase equity and funding. Smith has worked with the Hilltopper Athletic Fund to raise funds through the newly launched Women’s Legacy Fund, which aims to increase awareness and encouragement for women’s athletics at WKU.

“Sometimes female sports are hard to fundraise and get the word out. They don’t always hit social media first but our community embraces our programs,” Smith noted.

On top of the different fundraisers and programs aimed at spreading the word, the soccer and softball teams can look forward to a $3 million dollar joint facility aimed to be completed by the end of summer 2023. Stewart says the school’s aim for success will continue rising, but the completion will reflect much of the promise of Title IX.

“From a facility standpoint, this university and athletic department will be at an all-time high.”

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