The Iowan Daily | The Legacy of Christine Grant: Title IX and Iowa Athletics


Birdsong said she didn’t come into her position in 1974 focusing on fairness between the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Instead, she threw herself “heart and soul” into developing the program.

But she still noticed many disparities between the male and female programs. Birdsong said there were significant funding shortfalls in uniforms, practice shirts, equipment and transportation. Birdsong also couldn’t offer scholarships to its female basketball players. Her biggest frustration, she said, was the lack of locker room space in the women’s program.

“We didn’t have a dedicated dressing room and I didn’t have anywhere we could go to at half-time,” Birdsong said. “We finally got a room in the Field House, and it wasn’t designed for the showers, the facilities.

Former Hawkeye men’s basketball coach Lute Olson, who was with the Hawkeyes from 1974 to 1983, initially allowed the women’s team to use the men’s locker room. But this agreement has encountered difficulties.

“It became a bit of a problem because all the [men’s] player items were just hanging in the particular facility,” Birdsong said. “They felt it was not appropriate for us to be among all the items that would just be left lying around. So we ended up not being able to use it long term.

Title IX went into full effect in 1975. All high schools, colleges, and universities were given until July 21, 1978 to comply. This date has passed and few schools have complied. To help move forward, Grant served as a consultant to the 1978 Title IX Civil Rights Task Force. She also served on several NCAA committees while in Iowa, including the Special Committee on review the NCAA’s membership structure, Special Committee on Assessing Student-Athlete Interests, and Committee of Committees.

“She was committed to equality for girls and women, due to the lack of money they received when she came to this country,” Birdsong said.

Grant served as director of Iowa Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics from 1973 to 2000, until the men’s and women’s athletics departments merged into one. During her 27 years at Iowa, equality in women’s sports — both in college and across the country — was her primary goal. But Grant always made time for her Iowa student-athletes, even when she was stretched across the country with many responsibilities.

“She was literally fighting battles in Congress and on the speaking circuit trying to represent women and women’s sports everywhere,” said Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci, a close friend of Grant’s. “And she was in the NCAA. So she was very involved and she was at all the games she could attend, at all the big events.

Iowa field hockey plays its home games on Grant Field—named after the Title IX trailblazer—on the west side of campus.

Grant, originally from Scotland, was an avid field hockey player. She founded the Iowa field hockey program, a sport played primarily on the east coast of the United States, in 1977. Originally called Hawkeye Field Hockey Field, Iowa’s playing surface was dedicated to Grant on September 22, 1991.

“Every time we walked on this ground, of course we knew we were playing for all the women who came before us, and for her,” Cellucci said. “It’s just a privilege, the opportunity that you even just have to play a sport.

“She was so lucky in Scotland to have access to great training and to be able to compete. And then when she came to the United States, it was no longer the same thing. There was such disparate treatment between woman and men, and she couldn’t get over it.

Cellucci was a field hockey goaltender for Iowa from 1994 to 1998, becoming a four-time All-Big Ten selection and a three-time All-American. After leaving the state to begin her coaching career with James Madison, she returned to Iowa before the 2000 season as an assistant. In 2014, she became the head coach of Iowa.

Cellucci first met Grant when he was 17 and on an official visit to Iowa. From their first meeting, Cellucci knew of Grant’s passion for Title IX and equality in women’s sports.

“She really made it very clear why Iowa was so different,” Cellucci said. “It was so obvious, just the pride, the passion, what they were trying to do for student athletes, and that really set a lot of those Iowa teams apart in the early 90s when they had so many success.”

The pair had an hour-long conversation about Cellucci’s official visit to Iowa in 1993. When Cellucci mentioned at the meeting that she had a paper to deliver on the topic of Title IX, she said that Grant had pulled out countless documents on the subject to help him. paper.

“Needless to say, I got an A on this project,” Cellucci said.

Cellucci played in Iowa for the last few years before the men’s and women’s athletic departments merged. Everything was separate at the time, Cellucci said, including the sports information service, transportation and equipment.

At the time, she says, it made female student-athletes feel equal.

“You were like, ‘Yeah, you were that big star and you knew what you deserved,'” Cellucci said.

Looking back on her time as a student-athlete, she now realizes that all was not quite equal. But she still fondly remembers her athletic days in college.

“I was incredibly impressed and happy with my experience and the opportunities I was given,” Cellucci said. “…We were blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful women and coaches and people. Like, there were only role models and everywhere we looked.

Grant retired from his position in Iowa in 2000 before the athletics department merged. But her advocacy for Title IX and equality in women’s sports never stopped.

Birdsong said that for more than 15 years after Grant retired, people were asking for help with Title IX cases. Although they offered payment, Grant took the funds and gave them to the school or organization she was helping.

“She never wavered in her commitment to women and girls,” Birdsong said.

After his death, Grant left a pioneering legacy.

Timeline by Chloe Peterson/The Daily Iowan

“It’s one thing to really believe in something, but it’s another thing to…dedicate your whole life to this cause,” Cellucci said. “She really did, probably in every conversation in every setting she was in and right up until her death. She was still talking to people about how we could improve opportunities.

“We are forever indebted to her, because I wouldn’t be in the position that I am, or my student-athletes wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete on this stage if it wasn’t for someone like Christine Grant. “


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