This year marks a major milestone for Title IX, legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal financial assistance.
Ever since the law came into effect 50 years ago, it has revolutionized athletic programs for girls and women. Hence, numerous sports organizations and conferences are celebrating Title IX’s 50th anniversary, including the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the nation’s oldest HBCU athletic conference.
Without the contributions, unwavering support and advocacy of women over the decades, the CIAA would not be where it is today. The conference’s commissioner, Jacqie McWilliams, is the first woman to serve in that role in CIAA history.
“As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Title IX civil rights law, the conference is proud to be one of the few tournaments to feature both male and female competitions during the same week and at the same facility,” says a statement released by the conference.
“It also boasts the first female commissioner of the CIAA and the first-ever appointed African American female commissioner in the NCAA across Divisions I, II, and III.”
McWilliams, who was a standout CIAA student-athlete in the late 80s and early 90s at Hampton University, spent some of her professional career at Morgan State University.
“I’m incredibly honored to be celebrating my 10-year anniversary as commissioner in the same year that we celebrate the historic 50th Anniversary of Title IX — it’s a full circle moment for me,” McWilliams said.
“I started out as a student-athlete playing in the CIAA, and now I’m able to honor the sport in a different way by not only sharing the experience with the community but also by providing opportunities and access for the next generation.”
Over the past six weeks, as it gears up for the 2023 basketball tournament in downtown Baltimore, the CIAA has highlighted Title IX trailblazers — women who have “contributed profoundly to the advancement and growth of women’s athletics at their respective universities” and within the CIAA — one of whom being Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux.
“It is really humbling to be recognized in that way,” Breaux said.
“When you think about opportunities and ensuring that girls and women who are coming up through our schools see role models, I think it’s important that we recognize individuals, my colleagues, like Brenda Allen… Tonya Walker and so many others, to be recognized for what they have achieved in higher education, allowing our young girls and women to see what is possible.”
Breaux, who’s been at the helm of Bowie State University since 2017, said she recalls when Title IX was originally enacted in 1972.
“It’s very significant for our institutions and our women and girls across this nation to see what has been achieved and the progress that’s been made since Title IX came into place,” Breaux said, highlighting the importance of Title IX civil rights legislation.
“I’m old enough to remember when it was put into place and I have seen such a vast difference in the opportunities afforded to girls and women since that occurred. And watching so many girls and women be able to compete in ways that they weren’t able to compete at the elementary school level, middle school, [high school] and of course with our college athletes; but then to rise up through the ranks and to move on into professional teams that just didn’t exist back when this came into place.”
While she acknowledged the considerable progress of Title IX over the past half century, Breaux said she felt there remains ample room for growth as it relates to equal opportunities for women of color.
“So I’m really pleased to see the progress that’s been made, but I’m also hopeful that we’ll continue to see more progress because we need to continue to address opportunities for women of color and girls of color to have even more opportunities,” said Breaux, who also serves as the chairwoman for the CIAA Board of Directors.
“That’s where I think there’s a lot of ground that needs to be made up… there’s a lot of room for us to grow to not just see student-athletes have opportunities, but to increase the opportunities for administrators and head coaching roles.”
Breaux added that she has noticed glaring disparities with regard to race and socioeconomic status, highlighting the need for lawmakers and influential figures in the sports sector to take the necessary steps to close the gap.
“There’s a lot of ground we have to make up across the board in looking at how we’re enforcing equitable opportunities for women of color, girls of color across schools, beyond just the collegiate level,” she said.
“It’s going to take government, it’s going to take our conferences, it’s going to take the NCAA, our school districts and all of us working together if we’re going to really bring about change for gender, but also for race.” BT