50 years after Title IX: How UM started a revolution
A little-known fact as Title IX celebrates its 50th anniversary: The University of Miami in 1973 became the first university in the nation to offer women’s athletic scholarships. We look back on it all here:
Even before Title IX went into effect in 1972 and required colleges to provide equal opportunities for women’s sports, South Florida was a unique hotbed for women in sports.
A Miami Hurricanes tennis player in the 1940s played in Wimbledon, while she was still in school. Multiple Miami golfers counted themselves among the best amateurs in the world. The university was already looking to create opportunities for women, even before the United States required it.
Across the past 50 years, Hurricanes have won national championships, Barry University has dominated in several Division II women’s sports, and smaller schools like Keiser University, St. Thomas University and Florida Memorial University are trailblazers in new sports, and programs.
This is a look at 50 years of Title IX all across the region, through 50 influential women in sports.
- Doris Hart, Miami women’s tennis, 1947-1949. Long before Title IX gave women real opportunities in college athletics, Hart was an international tennis star while attending Miami. She won the doubles title at Wimbledon in 1947 while she was still in college, then went on to win six major championships in singles.
- Judy Eller-Street, Miami women’s golf, 1958-1961. Eller-Street was Miami’s first female All-American, representing the university as a golfer more than a decade before the start of Title IX. She won the United States Women’s Amateur in 1958, played in the 1960 Curtis Cup at just 19 and won the Hurricanes’ first women’s national championship in 1959. She returned to golf for Division II Barry University in 2002 at 61, eligible because she competed for the Hurricanes before women’s golf was an NCAA sport.
- Roberta Albers Speer, Miami women’s golf, 1964-1967. Speer was the second woman inducted into Miami’s Sports Hall of Fame and the second woman to win a national title for the Hurricanes in 1965, even getting featured in Sports Illustrated in an era before Title IX started to make women’s sports more mainstream.
- Isabella Hutchison, Miami women’s athletic director, 1965-1979. Hutchison arrived at Miami in 1965 to start the school’s women’s intramural sports program. From there, she went on to coach various sports, including women’s tennis, and became the women’s athletic director in 1977. When Title IX began in 1972, Hutchinson helped the Hurricanes start a full recruiting program for women, making Miami the first school to do so.
- Ann Laughlin-Fulginiti, Miami women’s golf, 1972-1974. Laughlin-Fulginiti was one of Miami’s first stars of the Title IX era, earning All-America honors in 1972 and 1974, and winning an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in 1972, also helping the Hurricanes win their second team championship.
- Pat Bradley, FIU women’s golf, 1972-1974. Bradley immediately gave FIU a women’s star. After getting her associate’s degree from Miami-Dade College, Bradley stayed in Miami and golfed for the Panthers for two years, becoming FIU’s very first All-American. She went on to win six major championships.
- Judy Blucker, FIU administrator, 1972-2007. Blucker is the mother of women’s athletics at FIU, working as an assistant professor in the School of Education and wondering why the university didn’t have any women’s teams. The school was founded in 1972 — the same year as Title IX — and Blucker helped the athletic department launch its women’s teams, even coaching softball and women’s volleyball.
- Dawn Frady, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 1973-1976. Swimming and diving was the first women’s powerhouse at Miami was a key contributor to a pair of Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships in 1975 and 1976, winning individual titles in the 200-yard and 400 freestyles in 1975.
- Sharon Berg, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 1973-1976. Berg was one of the first four women to earn a swimming and diving scholarship to Miami, and she was the first Hurricane to win multiple individual national titles. She was a four-time All-American, and won the 200-yard breaststroke and 400 freestyle in 1974. She was also part of two Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships in 1975 and 1976.
- Cathy Morse, Miami women’s golf, 1974-1977. Morse was the fourth of five national-champion women’s golfers for Miami in a 20-year span when she won the title in 1977. The Hurricanes also won their first of two straight Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships in 1977.
- Janet Buchanan-Kerr, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 1975-1978. Buchanan-Kerr is the most decorated swimmer in Miami history, winning five individual national titles and earning All-American honors in 17 different events. She was the leader for two Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships in 1975 and 1976, elevating the Hurricanes to prominence they’d sustain throughout the decade.
- Cindy Russo, FIU women’s basketball coach, 1977-1978, 1980-2015. In her 36 years at FIU, Russo became perhaps the most successful coach in school history, retiring with the 15th most wins in NCAA history and leading the Panthers to six NCAA tournaments.
- Lin Dunn, Miami women’s basketball coach, 1978-1987. Dunn was Miami’s fourth coach, and the first to notch 10- and 20-win seasons in the early days of women’s basketball as an NCAA sport. She was the president of the of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association from 1984-1985.
- Patti Rizzo, Miami women’s golf, 1978-1981; Miami women’s golf coach, 2010-2022. As a player, Rizzo was a two-time All-American and the 1979 golfer of the year, according to Golfweek. She returned to coach at her alma mater in 2010.
- Nancy Olson, FIU athletic director, 1979-1985. Olson was FIU’s first — and, so far, only — female athletic director and was one of only about a dozen female ADs around the country at the time. She led the Panthers’ efforts to add men’s basketball. She was also only the second woman in Florida to be a high school athletic director when she worked for Broward County Public Schools prior to her move to Miami.
- Penny Hammel, Miami women’s golf, 1980-1984. Hammel won Miami’s fifth women’s golf individual national title in 1983 and also led the Hurricanes to their only NCAA championship in any women’s sport in 1984. STitle IX in Miami: 50 years of influential womenhe was a two-time All-American and Golfweek’s 1983 golfer of the year.
- Robin Harmony, Miami women’s basketball, 1980-1984; St. Thomas University women’s basketball coach, 2006-2013. Harmony is one of the greatest players in Miami history, finishing her career 10th in scoring, and she followed up with multiple coaching stops in South Florida. First, she was an assistant coach with the Hurricanes for 18 years before leaving in 2005 to become St. Thomas’ first women’s basketball coach. She led the Bobcats to three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournaments.
- Wendy Williams, Miami swimming and diving, 1985-1989. After Greg Louganis graduated, Williams was the next face of MIami diving, becoming the first diver other than Louganis to win a national title in 1989. She was also the first former Hurricane woman to win an Olympic medal in diving when she claimed bronze in the 10-meter platform at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
- Jan Bell, St. Thomas University’s director of sports administration programs and faculty athletics representative, 1985-present. Bell has been teaching classes in St. Thomas’ renowned sports administration program since 1985 and became the faculty athletics representative in 1997. The school inducted her into its sports hall of fame in 2014.
- Connie Nickel, Miami administrator, 1987-2011. Nickel spent 20 years at Miami as the associate athletic director for internal operations and senior women’s administrator. As the women’s administrator, she oversaw the start of women’s soccer and women’s volleyball at the school.
- Ferne Labati, Miami women’s basketball coach, 1988-2005. Labati led Miami to its first NCAA tournament in her first season and finished her career as the winningest basketball coach in school history — men’s or women’s — until coach Katie Meier, her successor, passed her last year. She led the Hurricanes to their only Sweet 16 in 1992 and their only conference-tournament titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
- Heather Jaeger, Barry University women’s soccer, 1990-1993. Barry won three Division II women’s national champions in five years from 1989-1993, and Jaeger was part of back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993. She was a two-time All-American and the National Player of the Year in 1993.
- Noemi Lung, FAU women’s swimming and diving, 1990-1992; FIU swimming and diving coach, 2002-2010. Lung, who won two individual medley medals for Romania at the 1988 Summer Olympics, is one of the most important figures in South Florida swimming. She was the NCAA’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1992 at FAU and later was the Owls’ associate coach from 1997-2000. She then went to FIU, where she started the Panthers’ swim team and coached from 2002-2010. After she left the college coaching ranks, Lung was the director of the Miami Dade College aquatic and fitness center from 2010-2021.
- Amy Deem, Miami track and field coach, 1990-present. Deem was the Big East Conference Coach of the Year seven times in her nine seasons in the league and has sustained success for more than 30 years. All 15 of Miami’s women’s track and field national champions have come under Deem’s watch, with the first in 1992 and the most recent in 2019.
- Gillian Russell-Love, Miami women’s track and field, 1991-1995. Russell-Love was Miami’s first national champion in track and field, winning five titles as a hurdler from 1992-1995. The Hurricanes have now won 17 total in track and field, with 15 by women.
- G. Jean Cerra, Barry University athletic director, 1991-1997. Barry won six Division II national championships with Cerra as athletic director, but her contributions date back even further. In the 1970s, she was one of the original advocates for Title IX and worked for the Missouri Tigers to help them become of the first athletic departments to merge their men’s and women’s teams.
- Jenny Keim-Johansen, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 1997-2000. Keim-Johansen won two individual national titles at Miami in 1999 and 2000, and went on to represent the United States at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
- Sherri Pla, FAU women’s basketball, women’s golf, women’s cross country and softball, 1994-1999. Pla came to FAU as a point guard and is still the Owls’ all-time leader in assists, but made a mark on the entire athletic department because she was frequently asked to play for some of the school’s other young teams. She joined the softball team despite never playing before and wound up playing professionally, ran cross country, and picked up golf as a senior and ultimately made it her professional career.
- Octavia Blue, Miami women’s basketball, 1995-1998. Blue, who went to high school at Nova in Davie, was an All-American at Miami in 1998 and the Hurricanes’ first Women’s National Basketball Association draft pick. She returned to Miami as an assistant coach in 2012 before leaving for the top job with the Kennesaw State Owls in 2021.
- Joan Joyce, FAU softball coach, 1995-present. Joyce is the only coach in FAU softball history and one of only 45 coaches with 1,000 NCAA wins. With Joyce at the home, the Owls have made the NCAA tournament 11 times and been one of FAU’s most consistent programs.
- Yolanda McCray, Miami women’s track and field, 1996-1999. McCray, who went to high school at Miami Southridge, was Miami’s second female national champion in track and field, winning the 100-meter hurdles for her hometown school in 1999.
- Laura Courtley-Todd, St. Thomas University athletic director, 1996-present. Courtley-Todd is still one of the few female athletic directors in Florida and has been at the helm for nearly 30 years. Under her leadership, St. Thomas became one of 15 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools to add flag football as a varsity sport in 2021. Keiser University and Florida Memorial University are two of the others.
- Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, Miami women’s tennis coach, 1998-present. After four seasons as an assistant coach from 1998-2001, Yaroshuk-Tews took over as Miami’s coach in 2002 and has had two Hurricanes win national championships in singles.
- Pamela McDonald, Barry University women’s soccer, 1999-2002. McDonald helped Barry win four consecutive Sunshine State Conference titles without losing a single league game. She’s now the boys’ soccer coach at Doral Academy and won back-to-back state titles in 2021 and 2022, becoming the first female coach to lead a boys’ team to a Florida High School Athletic Association title.
- Lauryn Williams, Miami women’s track and field, 2001-2004. Williams might be the most decorated Miami athlete of all time, winning a national title in the 100-meter dash in 2004, then going on to compete in four Olympics. She won gold in the 400 relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics, silver in the 100 at the 2004 Summer Olympics and even a silver in bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was the first American woman to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
- Karla Bersano, Barry University women’s volleyball, 2001-2004. Barry volleyball is one of three women’s programs with at least three Division II national championships, and Bersano was part of two of them in 2001 and 2004, thrice earning All-America honors.
- Tamara James, Miami women’s basketball, 2002-2006. James, who went to high school at South Broward, is Miami’s only four-time All-American in women’s basketball and the Hurricanes’ all-time leading scorer. She’s now the mayor of Dania Beach.
- Tabia Charles Collins, Miami women’s track and field, 2004-2006. Charles Collins earned 10 All-American honors — the second most in program history — and won a national title in the triple jump in 2006. She represented Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
- Audra Cohen, Miami women’s tennis, 2005-2007. Cohen, who went to high school at St. Thomas Aquinas, was Miami’s first singles national champion in tennis in 2007. She’s now the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
- Katie Meier, Miami women’s basketball coach, 2005-present. Meier became the winningest coach in Miami basketball history — men’s and women’s — last season and led the Hurricanes to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time. She was the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2011.
- Brittany Viola, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 2007-2011. Viola won a pair of platform national championships in 2008 and 2011, and competed for the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- T’erea Brown, Miami women’s track and field, 2007-2011. Brown won a national title in 400-meter hurdles in 2011 and competed for the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- Sandra Changkija, Nova Southeastern University women’s golf, 2008-2011. Changkija is only NCAA golfer at any level to be the national player of the year in four straight seasons and it powered Nova Southeastern to the most successful run it has ever had in any sport. The Sharks won four straight Division II national titles from 2009-2012.
- Barbi Pocza, Barry University women’s tennis, 2009-2011. Pocza was the Division II National Player of the Year in 2011 and led Barry to its first women’s tennis national championship, kicking off a dynasty, which has now yielded seven titles.
- Shakima Wimbley, Miami women’s track and field, 2013-2017. Wimbley, who went to high school at St. Thomas Aquinas, is Miami’s most recently national-champion sprinter, winning the indoor 400-meter dash in 2017.
- Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami women’s tennis, 2016-2020. Perez-Somarriba came from Spain to South Florida to play tennis at Miami and is the Hurricanes’
most recent winning national champion, winning the singles title in 2019.
- Michelle Atherley, Miami women’s track and field, 2017-2021. Atherley is Miami’s most recent national championship in track and field, winning the indoor pentathlon in 2019.
- Lauren Bennett, Keiser University women’s lacrosse coach, 2017-present. Lacrosse — and particularly women’s lacrosse — is one of the fastest growing sports in South Florida and Bennett made history in 2021 by leading Keiser University to the first national title for a women’s lacrosse team from the region.
- Mia Vallee, Miami women’s swimming and diving, 2019-present. Miami’s women are still winning national championships today, more than 60 years Judy Eller-Street won the first in 1959. Vallee won the one-meter diving national title this year.
- Madeline Pumariega, Miami Dade College president 2021-present. Pumariega, who went to high school at Hialeah, helped Miami Dade College make the Florida College System Activities Association basketball championship in 1986 and is now the first female president in the junior college’s history.
This story was originally published June 22, 2022 9:15 AM.