A little-known fact as Title IX celebrates its 50th anniversary: The University of Miami in 1973 became the first university in the nation to offer women’s athletic scholarships. We look back on it all here:
Terry Williams Munz vividly remembers scurrying into her Redland home to answer the telephone one spring day of 1993. A University of Miami athletic department official was on the other end of the line to inform her that a “Jeopardy!” game show researcher had called to confirm the accuracy of an upcoming clue:
“Golfer Terry Williams was the USA’s first woman to receive one of these from the University of Miami in 1973”
The correct response: “What is a sports scholarship?”
Had “Jeopardy!” not posed that clue, Williams might never have found out that she made history on May 7, 1973, when she signed a $2,400 athletic tuition waiver scholarship from UM.
With that signature, she became the first female athlete in any sport to receive an athletic scholarship from a U.S. university. Up until that point, women played recreational sports on college campuses, but none had been awarded athletics-based scholarships. Those were reserved for male student-athletes.
A May 23, 1973, article in the New York Times read:
“The University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., has awarded five athletic scholarships to women during the past two weeks and has 10 more to give to women high school graduates able to enter the Miami freshman class next fall. It is considered to be the first time a college with such a bigtime athletic stature has given an athletic grant to a woman. Certainly no other bigtime sports college has offered 15 women’s athletic scholarships in one year.”
Williams Munz never saw that story, so it wasn’t until the “Jeopardy!” call that she learned of her milestone.
UM’s historic decision came 11 months after then-President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments Act on June 23, 1972. Within that landmark legislation, which addressed gender inequality in education, was a 37-word clause called Title IX that would change women’s sports forever.
It read: “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.”
Although neither “sports” nor “athletics” are among the 37 words of Title IX, gender equality in high school and college athletics fell under the law’s umbrella and became a battle cry that has reverberated for the past five decades.
In 1972, a total of 294,015 girls participated in high school sports in the United States, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. That number represented just 7 percent of the high school varsity athletes at that time.
Today, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, more than 3.4 million girls play high school sports and make up 43 percent of all high school athletes.
In 1972, fewer than 30,000 women participated in college sports. Today, that number has grown to 215,486. Women comprised 15 percent of collegiate athletes in 1972. By 2020-21, that number was up to 44 percent.
“For 20 years I didn’t know I was the first one, I had absolutely no clue until 1993,” Williams, 66, told the Herald during a recent interview at the sprawling 40-acre Redland property her husband’s family has owned since the 1940s. “When I accepted that scholarship, I was just a 17-year-old kid who loved to play golf and UM was giving me the chance to get an education, do what I love, and save my parents money. I had heard of Title IX but didn’t realize it was a big deal at the time.”
Williams was an athletic kid, won best athlete at Redland Junior High, and picked up golf when she was 13. Her father was a Miami-Dade firefighter, the Redland Golf Course allowed firemen to play for free and he fell in love with the game. Williams’ mom also started to play, so she followed suit.
When she arrived at South Dade High School in 1970, the only sports offered for girls were gymnastics, cheerleading and tennis. So, she joined the boys’ golf team, which was coached by Marvin Schneider, a forward-thinking man who later urged her to pursue college golf.
Williams quickly made a name for herself on the local high school golf scene, set some course records and was one of the athletes featured in the McArthur Dairy “Salutes” program.
“Competing on the boys’ team was kind of cool,” Williams said. “I have grandsons now who wrestle against girls, and I can relate. The boys were respectful of me. I hit the ball hard for someone my size because I had to play the boys’ tees. I didn’t hit as far as they did, but I never got to play girls’ tees until I got to college, so it helped me get stronger.
“I never felt discriminated against because in golf, if I shot the second-best score on the team, I was the No. 2 golfer on the team. It’s not subjective.”
Meanwhile, in Woodbridge, New Jersey, 17-year-old swimmer Lynn Gienieczko was training at the all-male Rutgers University alongside male swimmers under former Olympics coach Frank Elm. He ran an age-group program for girls, and Gienieczko joined when she was 11.
“I was called a tomboy, but I didn’t really know what that meant,” Gieniezczko, 66, told the Herald by phone from Morristown, New Jersey, where she is an appraiser who provides guidance to clients requiring valuation of their antiques, art, and jewelry. “To me, it meant I’m faster than you and I got drafted earlier than you in kickball. I never felt insulted or shunned, everybody wanted me on their team because I was a good athlete.”
Gienieczko, who now goes by her married name Lynn Magnusson, also ran track. But swimming was her passion. “I loved being in my own world, like a mermaid, with goggles on, in a safe bubble.” Like Williams, she said training alongside boys helped her build confidence.
“I was intimidated at 11, but by 12 I was like, `These guys are cool’ and I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “We trained side-by-side with them. My career was always co-ed, and always with older college guys.”
She remembers visiting the UM campus in Coral Gables and falling in love.
“My dad had retained some guy who searched out scholarships for people, and the U of M was kind enough to give me an opportunity to fly there and show me a good time,” she said. “They took me to the beach, to a country club and then I saw that outdoor pool at the student union, and I was smitten. I was like, `Wow this is really great,’ certainly not like New Jersey or the five-lane indoor pool I trained in, in a cavernous 19th century building at Rutgers.”
Gienieczko was one of four swimmers UM signed to athletic tuition waiver scholarships in that first spring class of 1973, along with 1972 Olympian Jennifer Bartz of Santa Clara, California, Nancy Kirkpatrick of Santa Clara and Nina Maginis of Sunnydale, California. They each got $2,400 to cover tuition and had to pay $700 to $800 out of pocket for room and board.
Williams was also pursued by Rollins College in Winter Park, and Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, but she chose Miami because her tuition was covered and she could live for free with her grandmother near campus, which is where she lived until she married Charles “Pinky” Munz during her sophomore year.
It might seem surprising that the University of Miami, a private school in the South, was at the forefront of women’s college athletics. But then-president Henry King Stanford and Dr. Bill Butler, the vice president of student affairs, were progressive leaders.
Norm Parsons, who was hired in 1972 as director of intramurals, was involved in the early discussions of women’s athletic scholarships, along with Isabella Hutchison, the director of women’s recreational sports at the time.
“It was a private university, so you can react quickly and don’t have state legislature and government to deal with,” Parsons said. “Dr. Butler and I ran into president Stanford at a UM baseball game and that’s the first conversation we had about women’s athletic scholarships. It was an easy sell.
“Dr. Stanford was such an incredible positive, equal opportunity guy. And Dr. Butler epitomized the whole thing. It was like preaching to the choir. The stars sort of aligned, it was like `This is the right thing to do. We should do it.’ The trustees bought into it, and we were off and running.”
Butler recalled those conversations in his book “Embracing the World: The University of Miami from Cardboard College to International and Global Acclaim.”
“I decided to invite several female student-athletes to one of my staff meetings in January 1973, just shortly after the university recognized Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics, asking them to present their concerns,” Butler wrote.
“They were very vocal. All of them strongly objected to the fact that the men received athletic scholarships for participating in athletic events and representing the university and they did not. I got an ear full! The students were so convincing I asked president Stanford for permission to let me address the executive committee of the Board of Trustees.”
That meeting took place on Mar. 29, 1973.
Butler wrote that when he recommended UM create 15 tuition scholarships for female student-athletes, one trustee, Stuart Patton, replied: “Why in the world would you want to do such a thing?” Butler continued “My reply was twofold, `Stuart, because it’s the right thing to do. And, I know that Mrs. Patton is an excellent golfer. Imagine if she were a young lady applying to enroll as a freshman at UM. If she were a male student she might well qualify for a golfing scholarship. But, she is a woman, and would not qualify. Don’t you think that is unfair?’’’
After some discussion, the trustees approved the plan unanimously. They awarded 15 scholarships the first year and increased it by five in 1974 and by 10 in 1975.
“As verified by ‘Jeopardy!,’ we were the first university in the United States to award a scholarship, and I had the pleasure to give that to Terry Williams,” said Parsons, who retired in 2014 after 42 years at UM. “We chose swimming, tennis and golf because we had those facilities. We didn’t have an indoor gym for women’s basketball or volleyball until 1975. I remember reading in the Herald a score summary said the women’s basketball game was rained out on the outdoor courts.”
Butler credited singer and talk show host Dinah Shore for helping promote UM women’s athletics in the early days. Her show was filmed in Miami Beach, and she invited female Hurricanes golfers and swimmers to appear as guests.
Hutchison commented on Shore’s influence in Butler’s book: “A year later, kids were calling and saying, `I saw your school’s athletes on The Dinah Shore Show,’’ and then they would apply to UM.”
The UM women won back-to-back national swim titles in 1975 and 1976. The women’s golf team won national championships in 1977 and 1978, knocking off a Tulsa team led by eventual LPGA star Nancy Lopez. And the UM women’s tennis team, coached by Hutchison, went 75-3 from 1973 to 1977 and reached the national playoffs three times.
“That decision by the trustees to get the university involved early in women’s scholarships paid off significantly and gave UM national recognition in those three sports,” Parsons said. “We were ahead of the game.”
Williams Munz, a mother of four and grandmother of 13, says the best part of her UM golf career was the camaraderie with teammates Cathy Morse, Diane Mercure, Sheri Keblish and others.
“I didn’t have a sister, so those girls on the team became my sisters,” she said. “I played on the boys’ team in high school, didn’t have female teammates, so that was the best part of my college experience, having female teammates. It was wonderful. We traveled in vans, played cards, and made so many memories.”
It wasn’t until the 1993 “Jeopardy!” call that Williams truly realized she had made a mark in history, fulfilled a unique purpose, and she said that brought her closer to her Christian faith.
Gienieczko’s experience at Miami didn’t go as planned. She got a staph infection her first semester, had to miss significant pool time, felt disconnected from the team, gave up her scholarship and transferred to Montclair University after her freshman year, much to her parents’ dismay.
“There were some negatives about the times — early 1970s — it was a very tumultuous time to be an 18-year-old away from home in a beautiful location, lots of temptations,” she said. “I ended up hanging out in Coconut Grove in the hippie culture, working backstage at concerts at the Marine Stadium. I wish someone had guided me better, and I do regret leaving.”
But she has fond memories of her time in the UM pool and, in hindsight, realizes what an incredible opportunity she had.
“I am grateful to the women’s lib movement of the ‘60s and early ‘70s for opening the doors that I merely walked through,” said Gienieczko, who until recently still competed in Masters level races. “That’s how I felt then and that’s still how I feel. I don’t feel like I did anything particularly brave. I just did what I enjoyed.”
UM is now at the forefront of another chapter of college athletics — Name, Image and likeness (NIL). As of July 1, 2021, athletes are allowed to profit off their likeness. Among the athletes who have cashed in the most are basketball playing twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who transferred from Fresno State to Miami this offseason. They have 4 million TikTok followers and have signed deals worth an estimated $1 million.
Williams Munz can hardly believe how far women’s sports have come since she signed her scholarship.
“I am so glad girls get these opportunities,” she said. “But in some ways, I feel it has created too much stress on them to work out more, get trainers, follow special diets, give up everything else in their lives. It’s like a full-time job. They don’t get to enjoy college. It was simpler back then. We just played because we loved it.”
This story was originally published June 22, 2022 8:00 AM.
Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, Super Bowls and has been the soccer writer and University of Miami basketball beat writer for 25 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.