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“They didn’t let women in the NCAA if you can believe it”

Wildcat legends recall impact of Title IX and honor International Womens Day
Celebrating 50th anniversary of Title IX
Celebrating 50th anniversary of Title IX
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 10:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Rocky LaRose, the University of Arizona’s former Deputy Athletic Director, never grew up thinking that she would get to play softball for U of A.

“They didn’t let women in the NCAA if you can believe it,” said Joan Bonvicini, former University of Arizona Women’s Basketball Coach. “I was in college when title IX was made law.”

In 1972. only 50 years ago, Title IX was signed into law. It says “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.”

And for half the population, those words changed everything.

“It was like a light switch came on and all of a sudden all the opportunity was passed,” said LaRose.

Title IX allowed LaRose to do what she never thought was possible as a young girl, play softball at the University of Arizona on a full ride scholarship. She helped lead the team to a national championship just seven years after Title IX was signed.

Larose went on to be a pioneer for women in sports, as the first woman to oversee men’s and women’s basketball at the U of A and serving as the university’s first female athletic director.

“Once I was handed the baton, I was standing here.” said LaRose. “We had to build this from the ground up.”

Building anything from the ground up isn’t easy. LaRose relied on the support of other women, like Bonvicini, Arizona’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the time.

“You can get advice from men but it’s not the same,” said Bonvicini. “Women have been in those shoes.”

As LaRose oversaw the program, together the two worked toward equality in things as simple as practice times.

“Our practice time everyday was 4:30p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the men’s was 2:00p.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” she said.

The 2:00 P.m. to 4:30 p.m. slot is considered “prime time,” so coaches can then recruit players in the evening.

“I was like what the heck is going on,” said Bonvicini. “This isn’t right.”

LaRose took action.

“Lute [Olson] was a trooper. He agreed to this, but yes, I had to go in and sit down with him,” said LaRose. “He absolutely agreed with it.’”

LaRose says without men, like Olson, supporting women, Title IX may have lost impact.

“That’s absolutely critical otherwise we wouldn’t have made the progress we made,” said LaRose.

The proof of the progress is in McKale Center.

“I never really thought of it when I was younger,” said Sam Thomas.

Thomas is a star on the Arizona Women’s Basketball team right now, she didn’t once think twice about playing a sport as a girl.

“Now its such a foreign idea that women could not participate in varsity sports, that’s a concept that fortunately these days we cant understand,” said LaRose. “Look at our women, look at our 15 national championships.”

Of the school’s 22 national championships, 15 were won by women’s teams.

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