June 23, 2017 will mark the 45th anniversary of the passage and implementation of "Title IX" legislation by Congress, signed by President Richard Nixon, which began a revolution of women's athletics at the collegiate level.
The revolution did not happen overnight, and still, 45 years later, has many obstacles to overcome in order to attain true equality with the male counterparts. For example, it would take another decade before the NCAA finally offered a women's basketball championship tournament to counter the men's tourney. Back in the powerhouse days of Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan at Old Dominion, playing for a national championship meant playing in the "AIAW Tournament", sponsored by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women", a governing body formed in 1971.
Today, in Richmond, arguably the best high school basketball team is the Monacan Girls Basketball team, nationally ranked, with the number one recruited player in this year's graduating class and much, much more. A generation ago, girls basketball in high schools around Richmond, and in most parts of America, were an afterthought. They were not promoted by administration and presented in some cases because schools had to rather than wanted to.
Thankfully, that thinking doesn't exist any longer. Still, girls basketball at the high school level is either played as the first game of a varsity doubleheader or is played at one school simultaneously as when the boys play at the other school. While totally understandable from a scheduling and fiscal standpoint, the drawback is it hinders the growth on the girls side.
At the collegiate level in basketball for example, VCU men's basketball has sold out the Siegel Center 89 consecutive times, certainly a tribute, in part, to the program's success this decade fueled by their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four in Houston. Today, we sit in the Siegel Center typing this just before the VCU women's basketball team takes the floor for their Atlantic 10 home opener, and, 30 minutes before tip, there are maybe 100 fans in a 7,500 seat arena.
Did you know we have a nationally ranked women's college basketball team right now in Richmond? The Virginia Union Panthers, even after losing their leading scorer from last year's NCAA Tournament team to graduation, are unbeaten and ranked sixth in the county in Division II.
It's not just basketball. In the spring, there is softball, lacrosse, soccer and track. In the fall, there is volleyball, field hockey and cross country. Women's college sports play from August to June.
RVA Sports Network has long been a supporter of women's athletics and we strive to provide as much coverage of women's sports, especially at the high school level, as we do men's. So, in 2017, RVA Sports Network will sponsor a year-long initiative to salute, spotlight, and promote women's sports in the Metro Richmond area.
This will include:
--more coverage of high school girls' sports
--new coverage of an expanded array of women's college sports
--spotlight articles on women's players, coaches, and figures who have contributed to women's sports, past, present, and future
We will be using the special hashtag "#RVAW" at every live women's event we cover on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We invite other media organizations to partner with us in using this hashtag when they cover women's sports, at any level, to provide synergy and well-deserved publicity to half of the student-athletic population of not just our area, but our nation.
We are very excited about doing our part to help come closer to bringing true equality to women's sports. One reason it has not existed to this point is false assumptions from the public.
"Oh, it's a women's game."
That thinking is way outdated and needs to finally be placed in the past. With positive, realistic coverage of women's sports by The RVA Sports Network and others, we hope to dispel that false assumption, one mind at a time, once and for all.
Happy New Year, and welcome to The Year Of Women's Sports on The RVA Sports Network!