This project presents an institutional history of women’s intercollegiate athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By looking to the individual campus, we learn about the ways in which administrators, coaches, faculty, and students understood the educational value of college sports. The UNC women’s program began in the 1950s as extramural play and quickly transformed into big-time college sports. By the early 1980s, the women experienced the same tension between academics and athletics at the heart of intercollegiate sports as the men. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, colleges, the media, and most Americans strongly associated the Big Time with the revenue-producing sports of football and men’s basketball. In Chapel Hill and across America, however, all sports teams, men’s and women’s, revenue and non-revenue, felt the effects of the increased professionalization and commercialization of the collegiate athletic enterprise. The history of women’s intercollegiate athletics provides a new window into exploring the benefits and challenges of big-time sports in higher education.
Frances Burns Hogan, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, and her colleagues worked hard to expand sporting opportunities for women. They helped create the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which provided governance and began hosting national championships in 1971. They collaborated with university administrators and athletic officials to implement Title IX compliance during the 1970s. Hogan and many directors eagerly joined men’s athletic conferences to commence regular season play, and by the 1980s, supported the move to the NCAA. Providing the best competitive experiences for Carolina female student-athletes motivated Hogan’s decisions.
Frances Hogan and women’s directors nationwide determined the nature of women’s intercollegiate athletics. Hogan and her colleagues debated whether women’s sports should be inclusive and participatory or competitive and elitist. They struggled over the tension between the drive to expand women’s sporting opportunities and the desire to maintain educational priorities. They grappled with men in the athletic department who resisted their efforts to gain publicity, access to better facilities, adequate operational support, and the legitimacy enjoyed by men’s teams. By 1985, Hogan’s tireless efforts created the premier women’s athletic program in the Southeast.