Kansas Athletics to celebrate 50 years of women’s sports
LAWRENCE, Kan. – All-Americans Sharon Lokedi, Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili are currently carving their legacies in Kansas athletics history, but with the 2017-18 academic year set to begin it is a great reminder of those who pioneered and paved the way for future female student-athletes to don the Crimson and Blue.
The opportunity for women to compete for the University of Kansas was solidified in 1968. This school year, then, marks the 50th season of intercollegiate women’s athletics at KU, and the Department of Athletics will take the year to celebrate this milestone.
Starting with Friday’s season-opening soccer match against Nebraska, the Jayhawks, during their pregame warmup, will sport a commemorative T-shirt to honor the 50-year evolution of women’s sports in the athletics department. These commemorative T-shirts will be worn throughout the year by all female Jayhawk student-athletes prior to each competition.
In addition, several events are being scheduled and planned. Highlighted by sport reunions, recognitions and other special events, the celebration of the 50th year of women’s sports at Kansas will be a year-long initiative for the department.
KU’s women’s intercollegiate athletics program began with six sports: women’s basketball, softball, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics and field hockey. When Marlene Mawson was tasked with starting the program, an annual budget of $2,000 was provided and expected to cover all expenses for equipment, uniforms and travel. In addition to administering the program, Mawson also coached volleyball (1968-70), basketball (1968-71), softball (1968-70), tennis (1971) and field hockey (1969-71).
In 1974, Marian Washington was hired as Assistant Athletics Director for Women’s Sports and was presented with its first “big budget” – $120,000, with $60,000 provided by the KU Student Senate and $60,000 from the Kansas Legislature. That was also the first year that coaches of the women’s teams were paid; prior to then the female student-athletes were coached in the “spare time” of PE Department staff.
The University offered its first athletic scholarships to women in 1975, and the athletic departments remained separate until 1979.
Even though the 1968-69 academic year is technically the start of women’s intercollegiate athletics at KU, female students had the first opportunities to participate in physical education classes offered for women in 1893.
In 1903, Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball and KU’s director of physical education, agreed to coach an intercollegiate women’s basketball team for the University. The team played just one season, posting a 6-2 record. An intercollegiate varsity team was not annually in place until 1968-69, when the women’s athletics department was started.
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