In February, Commodore Nation sat down with Vice Chancellor David Williams to talk about the effect that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has had on the collegiate athletic landscape.
Commodore Nation: Do you think most fans realize the important contributions that female members of our department make?
David Williams: I doubt it, because like all members of our support staff they are behind the scenes for the most part. Top coaches such as Cathy Swezey (lacrosse) and Melanie Balcomb (basketball) are visible, but most others are not. Candice Storey Lee, a former basketball student-athlete here, has oversight of women's basketball, life skills, academics, compliance and is our senior women's administrator. That's a lot of responsibility. Elizabeth Wright, our director of academic support, has been instrumental in our student-athletes achieving a 3.0 cumulative grade point average for the past five years. Lori Alexander, a former strength and conditioning coach here, has oversight of many teams while also supervising our summer camp program and all of our championship events. Patricia Marett handles our budget. These women, and many others, are all critical to our success.
CN: Has Title IX adversely affected men's athletic programs?
DW: No, I don't think so. What has caused some men's programs to be eliminated are tight budgets and the inability of universities to fund more programs. Unfortunately, Title IX gets blamed when the university may not have the financial capability of sponsoring additional sport programs.
CN: Why do you think Vanderbilt has such a tradition of strong women's sport teams?
DW: Historically we find that the success of women's sports programs is closely connected to academics. For the most part, there is much less "after life"--i.e. professional sports opportunities--for women, and consequently women's sports tend to mirror the true college life. Female student-athletes are selecting their school for the right reasons and not thinking about where they might attend to improve their chances of turning professional.
CN: Your daughter Samantha was an NCAA swimmer in the Ivy League. Did her participation affect how you view women's athletics?
DW: Clearly it did. I have two sons and two daughters, and I always felt my girls should have the same opportunities as my boys. My feelings run deep and go back a long time. When I was a teenager my school had an outstanding track program. There was a girl in our neighborhood, Billie Jean White, and through grade school and junior high she could outrun most if not all of the guys. However, when we got to high school, we became stars and Billie Jean was left behind because there wasn't a team for her. We went to college and she didn't; Title IX came too late for Billie Jean.