50 Years of Title IX

As the sports world reflects on Title IX, its impact, progress, and continual push forward, celebrating the last 50 years’ worth of work is imperative. It’s also important that the work left to be done is recognized and accomplished.

For Vanderbilt Athletics, this celebration and recognition includes monthly themes that encompass all areas of women’s sports, interactive opportunities for fans and community members, ways to get involved and give back, as well as celebrations and events throughout the year. Stay up to date here with all elements of this celebration.

Title IX Legislation

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 or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Signed by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.

Title IX Tidbits

  • Championed by Edith Green and Patsy Mink in the House of Representatives and Birch Bayh in the Senate, Title IX was signed by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972. It states: “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 or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
  • Title IX’s language says nothing specifically about athletics. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare determined that because educational institutions receive federal funding, all aspects of the school’s operations were covered by Title IX, including sports. 
  • Prior to the implementation of Title IX, the NCAA did not hold championships for women’s sports. Instead, women’s athletics were administered by the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) until the NCAA began sponsoring championships in 1982.    
  • After a study and implementation period, universities were required to abide by Title IX by 1978. Vanderbilt added its first varsity sports for women in the 1977-78 academic year. The sports were basketball, tennis, swimming, and cross country/track. Volleyball was added in 1979 but was discontinued the following year. 
  • In that first year of varsity competition, all four coaches and women’s athletic director Emily Harsh were appointed on a part-time basis. The first full-time employee in Vanderbilt women’s athletics was June Stewart, hired in 1978 as sports information director. The first full-time coach was Joe Pepper in basketball in 1980. 
  • Basketball players Sheila Johannson and Cathy Bender received Vanderbilt’s first full athletic scholarships for women in 1979-80. 
  • According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, there are three parts to Title IX as it applies to athletics programs: (1) effective accommodation of student interests and abilities (participation), (2) athletic financial assistance (scholarships), and (3) other program components (the “laundry list” of benefits to and treatment of athletes). The “laundry list” includes equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, travel and daily per diem allowances, access to tutoring, coaching, locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, medical and training facilities and services, publicity, recruitment of student athletes and support services.
  • Today, Vanderbilt competes in 10 women’s varsity sports: basketball, bowling, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, and track (indoor and outdoor)/cross country. Commodore women’s teams have won three national championships: two in bowling (2007 and 2018) and one in tennis (2015). In addition, Ryan Tolbert of the women’s track team won the 400-meter hurdles in NCAA outdoor championships in 1997.  
  • Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Lee is the first woman, and first Black woman, athletic director in SEC history.

Celebrate Title IX with Monthly Themes


Title IX has had an enormous impact on American culture. Many of the changes this legislation has brought about have become so engrained in daily life that it’s hard for younger generations to imagine what it was like before. This month, we take time to educate on Title IX, its impact, and importance.

January Recap

  • Title IX t-shirt giveaway at a women’s basketball game
  • Sent a Title IX survey to athletics department staff to promote critical thinking about Title IX, how it impacts them, and how we can improve our educational efforts
  • Celebrated the life of women’s basketball trailblazer Lusia Harris, including a moment of silence following her passing
  • Celebrated We Back Pat Night at women’s basketball 
  • Launched a Title IX Tidbits education campaign to bring awareness to its history nationally and on campus

  • Hosted Title IX educational panel
  • Participants:
    Kevin Ingram, Director Digital Operations, Vanderbilt Athletics (moderator)
    Andrew Maraniss, Special Projects Coordinator, Vanderbilt Athletics
    Mary Roy, Director, Title IX and Title IX Coordinator, Vanderbilt University
    Dr. Sharon Shields, Professor, Vanderbilt University
    Dr. Otis McGreshman, Prevention Educator and Victim Resource Specialist, Project Safe, Vanderbilt

Black History Month

While there are many women who paved the way for women in sports, it’s imperative that we take time to celebrate the sports pioneers who overcame both racism and sexism. During the month of February, we will take time to celebrate Vanderbilt’s Black women pioneers, from student-athletes to administrators including athletic director Candice Lee, the first Black woman athletic director in SEC history.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is Feb. 2. This day is celebrated annually and is held in acknowledgement of the accomplishments of female athletes, to recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and to honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.

February Recap

Women’s History Month | National Nutrition Month

It’s imperative to understand where we’ve been to appreciate where we are today. While we certainly have continuous progress to make on equality for women in sport, it’s important to celebrate the history and the progress over the years. During March, we take time to celebrate the women who made an impact in moving women’s sports forward. We also are proud to join the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt on a slate of public events this month. 

As well in March, the sports world celebrates National Athletic Trainers Association Month. As we reflect on all those who make the sports world operate, our athletic trainers, and the females in those positions, come to the forefront during March. These individuals are constantly working to keep student-athletes in competition and keeping them healthy.


March 14 – Noon

Women at Vanderbilt Portrait Project, Unveiling, and Reception

  • Candice Lee and Stella Vaughn portraits unveiled

March 28 – 5 p.m.
LFG Film Discussion

  • Panel discussion of a documentary about gender inequality in women’s soccer. The film will be available to screen for free from March 21-28.


The Business of Women in Sport | Sexual Assault Awareness

With Tax Day on April 15, our thoughts turn to finances and the business of women in sport. Whether its job opportunities, pay discrepancies, hiring obstacles, or new avenues for female athletes to earn income through name, image and likeness legislation, the opportunities and challenges for women on the business side of sports are numerous. 

April is also Sexual Assault Awareness month. Working with campus and national partners, we will hold discussions and events on this topic of great importance. 


Moms in Sport

As we think about motherhood looks like in America, that vision has changed greatly over the years. Being a working mom is hard. When you combine that with being a working mom in sport, and the long, late, and odd hours, it gets even more challenging. During May, as we celebrate Mother’s Day and more, we look at how being a mom in sport impacts women and their families, and the strength it takes to persevere. We look at this from the lens of current Vanderbilt Athletics staff members who are moms, student-athletes whose moms work in sport or support their children’s athletic pursuits, and more.


Pride Month

As a nation, June is about celebrating and educating on the LGBTQIA+ community. In conjunction with our Title IX commemoration, we recognize and celebrate our Vanderbilt student-athletes and staff members in the LGBTQ community and educate others on how to become an ally. In addition, we showcase the athletes and sports teams who have taken a stance on the matter, shown up to support those in the community, and use their platform to create positive change.


As we look at current events in the United States and globally, women athletes are using their voices and platforms to advance social justice. During the month of July we celebrate and elevate the voices of female athletes who are serving a greater purpose and making our world a better place.

The Past, Present, and Future of Sports for Girls

When it comes to the way we think about sports for girls, where have we been, where are we now, and where are we headed? Opportunities for girls in sports have changed immensely over the years, and more changes are still needed. August is all about examining the world of sports from a girl’s perspective.


Youth Sports Education

Providing young girls enriching, meaningful experiences during their youth to play sports sets the foundation for their experience in sport, but also for their lives in general. During September, we look at how sports compliments education and the people and programs bringing enriching opportunities to girls in Nashville and beyond.


The Biggest Threats to Women’s Sports

While women’s sports have come a long way, there are certainly threats to continued progress. Throughout October, we take a look at what those threats are, how we can prepare for them, and how we defeat them. While this year is about celebrating Title IX and all it has made possible, we know that progress is not guaranteed and that we must keep advocating for equity in sports.


Spotlights on Mentors and Pioneers in Women’s Sports

Growing up, we all have heroes, mentors, and people we admire and look up to. Throughout November, we celebrate women who were pioneers and mentors to so many, both at Vanderbilt and across the world of sports.


What’s Next for Women in Sports

While the 50-year celebration may be coming to an end, as we look at all Title IX involves and all that we’ve celebrated, it’s important to also think about where we’re headed and how we can improve. There will always be work to be done. We look at the most important questions and biggest opportunities for women’s sports in 2022 and beyond.


Stay updated on Title IX initiatives throughout the year.