Title IX and the Fight for Equity in College Sports
Syracuse University Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in EducationNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network March 20, 2017 Kelly McFall
As I write this, the women’s basketball team for the University of Connecticut is in the midst of a 107 game winning streak. It’s quite reasonable to assert that Geno Auriemma will end his career as the most successful coach in basketball history.
In the excitement of setting so many records, many people don’t remember a world where women’s basketball at the university level was, at best, an afterthought. Kelly Belanger’s new book, Invisible Seasons: Title IX and the Fight for Equity in College Sports (Syracuse University Press, 2016) offers a valuable reminder that what is might not have been. The book examines the efforts by female basketball players at Michigan State University in 1977 to assert their right to an equitable share of university resources and respect. This period was a critical one for the newly passed Title IX, a statue in American law prohibiting educational institutions from discriminating by gender. With the federal government debating how to determine if a school had violated the law, players, coaches and universities tried to figure out how the law applied to them. The result at Michigan State was a protracted struggle by many of the female basketball players to claim their legal rights.
Belanger teaches English and writing at Valparaiso University. She also played basketball at Michigan state in the early 1980s, when the court case that concluded this struggle was still in process. She has an eye for details and nuance and her retelling of the story as history is excellent. But her background in rhetoric allows her to flesh out her historical account with a thoughtful analysis of the rhetorical choices made by each of the ‘sides.’ Anyone interested in Title IX or in women’s sports should add this book to their reading list.