Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Vickie (Shirley) Lowe
Many people probably don’t remember a time when women didn’t have equal opportunities in sports. It wasn’t until 1972 that Title IX was created which requires gender equality for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. Even when it was first instated, not all was fair between what men and women received for their athletic teams. Although to some it may seem like men’s sports still receive more recognition than women’s, looking back, women’s athletics has come a long way.
One might think that a woman who participated in sports in the early days of Title IX would be quite jealous and maybe even a little upset about what the ladies have the right to use today. Not Vickie Lowe. The former Kansas women’s basketball and softball player (1974-75) reminisced about her time and how much different it is from today.
“There wasn’t much money for women’s sports then,” Lowe said. “It was just the beginning (of Title IX), and it took a while for the policies to really be implemented. We had the same uniforms for softball, volleyball and basketball. We didn’t really have a locker room; our locker room was the women’s bathroom.”
If what Lowe and her teammates experienced happened today, it could turn into a huge lawsuit. Having the same uniform for every sport is ludicrous. A football team and men’s basketball team would never share jerseys.
Not only was equipment an issue, but so were facilities, as women athletes had to use bathrooms for their locker rooms. This was only around 40 years ago, so it’s now evident how far women’s athletics have come. Not only do women’s teams have their own locker rooms now, but they have their own jerseys and they experience the same amenities as men for traveling.
Lowe has never come out and called herself a pioneer of women’s athletics. Rather, she merely stated how she was happy to have the opportunity to play sports that she enjoyed. She claimed that she couldn’t be happier for how far women’s athletics have come. All she wanted was a chance for herself, and all women, to play the sports that they loved. Now women do have an equal opportunity to play athletics at the collegiate level and experience the amenities that go along with it.
She now serves on the board of directors for K Club, an organization through the Kansas athletic department that helps former athletes keep in contact with each other and the university. Lowe wants to be able to have all former student-athletes to remain close and part of the Jayhawk family.
“It’s just that connection with athletes who have played in the past,” Lowe said. “We have a lot of reunions that try and bring people back, so that’s been really fun to be a part of that. Keeping the family of Jayhawks together, and keeping the tradition going, and that feel, that sense of family.”
She’s been involved with many events that the K Club has put together to get alumni back in Lawrence to see that “family” she talked about. She remembers being a part of one of those herself that honored all of the women who lettered in sports that didn’t receive their letters when they played. At this event, each woman was honored and received their letters from their playing days. She mentioned how this was also the time where women who had lettered in basketball got their names put up in the hallway at Allen Fieldhouse.
Her involvement in K Club is one of many ways how Lowe stays apart of the Jayhawk family. She and her husband, also an alumnus, are diehard Kansas fans.
“Sometimes I think he might be a bigger fan than me,” Lowe said.
The Lowes love staying involved and up-to-date with as many of the Jayhawk sports teams as they can. They attend almost all of the men and women’s basketball games, even traveling to Austin for the men’s basketball game against Texas. In addition, they are Kansas football season ticket holders and also enjoy going to volleyball games.
Lowe embodies the true form of what a Jayhawk really is: she is giving, has passion for her Kansas athletics family and isn’t afraid to blaze a trail for what she believes to be right.
When she was a student-athlete at Kansas, Lowe knew she wasn’t getting the same opportunity that those participating in men’s sports were, but that didn’t stop her from playing the games she loved. She understood that she would have to endure difficulties for women in the future to get a fair chance.
Lowe and her peers were those trailblazers for women’s athletics. Title IX was a step in the right direction, but one law can’t change everything. It takes people like Lowe and women who participated in sports with her. Those are the people who should be thanked for progressing women’s athletics to where they are today.
Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.