Media Coverage for Women's Sport
“Joanie French remembers the time when perks were few and far between for female athletes at the college level.
On the short list of greatest athletes in Missouri State University history — male or female — French was a star in four sports at then-Southwest Missouri State University from 1974 to 1978, shortly after the dawn of Title IX.
The landmark legislation that paved the way for the rise of women’s athletics marks its 41st anniversary today. French spent recent days recalling the long days and nights — both on the court and off — as women’s teams at Missouri State worked for equality.
“The women ahead of me, they were paying their own hotel bills, paying for their own gas to get to nationals,” French said. “It was just a process. From getting better uniforms to getting practice time. Everything was a process.”
The efforts of French and many other pioneers have made women’s college athletics a top priority. Missouri State this past school year budgeted about $4.3 million for women’s sports — coaches salaries, scholarships and so forth — out of a roughly $11 million budget.
Drury University, whose athletes compete in NCAA Division II, is fully funded, too. Drury offers nine women’s sports, while Missouri State offers 10 and is looking to add two additional sports for women in coming years.
“We’re lucky here, at least in my sense and my observation, that the leadership of people who have come before me in this position, they’ve always been believers in equal opportunities,” said Matt Miller, executive director of athletics administration at Drury. “We’re proud of fact that we take women’s sports seriously.”
French led the SMSU volleyball teams coached by Linda Dollar to the best four-year record in school history from 1974-77 and went on to compete for the U.S. National volleyball team from 1978-79.
French also starred in basketball for the Lady Bears and played professionally for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Professional Basketball League from 1979 to 1981, and competed on the softball and track teams while at Missouri State.”
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