By SAMANTHA RINKUS
AU Athletic Communications
WASHINGTON - June 23 marks the 45th anniversary of one of the most influential laws in modern education - Title IX. A victory for female athletes across the country, it was a particularly satisfying achievement for a select group of women in the Washington, D.C., area who took advantage of their location to march in front of the White House and write letters to Congress to both critique and lend support to the bill. Among their number was American University Hall of Fame field hockey coach, Barbara J. Reimann, whose 30-plus years of service at AU was marked by passion and dedication for the pursuit of equal opportunities for all student-athletes.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Barb Reimann had what was then a rare opportunity to participate in sports from a young age.
"I was very fortunate [growing up] because we had teams, coaches, uniforms, officials. That was practically unheard of in most of the country," Reimann said. "As a kid, I just played sports, and I was fortunate enough to have the possibility of this when I was in high school and college."
But as a girl playing sports in the 1940s and 1950s, there was certainly a noticeable disparity between the girls' and boys' teams. Unable to get a bus for games, Reimann received tokens for the public trolley system to take them to schools around the Philadelphia area. Even for practice, the girls' teams could only get into the gym once a week, and had to resort to walking a mile with their coach to a junior high school for training.
Reimann took advantage of the opportunity to continue competing in college, and played field hockey and basketball at nearby Temple University until her graduation in 1955.
"Back then, there was a coach but there were no trainers, and we did travel some," Reimann said. "We had a bus that would take us to games, but Temple didn't have fields. So we had a bus that would take us out to hockey field for practice. Or, people drove their own cars if they had a car. So they did give us some support, but no a lot."
After graduation, Reimann spent 10 years teaching high school in Philadelphia before making the switch to the college world. She arrived at American University in the fall of 1967 to take over the young field hockey program and teach in the physical education department.
Still five years away from the passing of Title IX, it came down to the female coaches and administrators from the colleges and universities around D.C. to take the initiative and put together playing schedules. Out of their efforts was formed the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Sports Association for Women (MISAW), which included schools of all sizes.
"When I came to AU, they had interest groups and teams [in the area], but it was just kind of a loose organization," Reimann said. "And there were no leagues, so we played everybody - University of Maryland, Montgomery Junior College, P.G. Community College, Gallaudet, George Washington, Georgetown, and so on."
"But we were on the east coast, and were really the first to put it all together, because we had competition and we were running championships," Reimann said of the spread of popularity for women's collegiate athletics across the country.
By the early 1970s, work had begun on the writing of Title IX, and a group of women from in and around D.C. began the fight to ensure that athletics was represented. Reimann was among their number and participated in marches in front of the White House and Congress that called for equal opportunity for female athletes.
"At one point, Congress came out and said 'Well, we'll just have one basketball team and men and women can come try out, and the same for volleyball, swimming and so on,' and they didn't see the problem," Reimann said. "So some friends at Maryland put together a paper for Congress saying that with the physical difference, the difference in strength, women can't compete against men like that."
In April 1972, two months before Title IX was signed, American University became a charter member of the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (EAIAW); and Reimann, continuing to champion for the progress of female athletes, was elected as the association's treasurer.
Later that year, with the NCAA unwilling to take on women's sports (which didn't happen until the early 1980s), the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) was formed with institutions from around the country to continue consolidating governance of women's intercollegiate athletics and design, sponsor and sanction women's sports and championships.
But progress within athletic departments was still slow in those early years, as budgeting for women's teams became a primary issue.
"Because there were no scholarships, young women would come and maybe play for a year or two then things would come along and they would stop. So it was hard to keep students," Reimann said. "We had one set of kilts and the field hockey team wore them in the fall, then we gave them to the volleyball team who then gave them to the basketball team."
"We never had a trainer," Reimann continued. "The equipment room was the trunk of my car. And, in fact, some of the field hockey players didn't want to carry their sticks back to the dorm, because they didn't want anybody to make fun of them. So those would get left in my car, too."
Athena Argyropoulos, a senior associate athletic director and the senior woman administrator at AU, was one of the first classes to go all four years as a student-athlete after Title IX. A field hockey player under Reimann, Argyropoulos still has the top of the styrofoam cooler that they used to keep ice and orange slices in during games hanging in a frame in her office.
"There are things you take for granted now - tailgates, pregame meals, postgame meals - we got orange slices at halftime," said Argyropoulos. "And after the game, we had punch and cookies with the visiting team. That doesn't happen anymore. I remember walking up Mass Avenue with a broken foot because we didn't have a dedicated athletic trainer. There was one trainer for the whole department. There is just such a drastic difference in how women are treated today versus back then."
By the time Reimann retired from coaching in 1987, the growth of women's athletics at AU had started to show. She more than doubled the playing season of the field hockey program, going from a mere eight games in 1967 to 20 by her final season, and had closed with an overall record of 111-109-30.
"Obviously being located in Washington, D.C., and being a part of the group of women with the consortium of universities here - they all had to fight with and for each other in order to get these kinds of opportunities," Argyropoulos said. "It didn't just happen, they had to make it happen. They had to battle in order to forge the way."
Reimann continued her career at AU for another 10 years, working on the administrative side as an assistant athletics director and eventually a senior associate athletics director/senior woman administrator. She was also responsible for starting and operating the academic support program within the athletics department.
Dr. Billy Walker, the current director of athletics and recreation at American, has had a more in-depth view of the legislation. His doctoral dissertation was a legal study that looked at Title IX litigation - "Legal issues in intercollegiate athletics: an analysis of gender equity, contract, and tort liability litigation from 1990-1995."
"As an administrator, it's our responsibility to make sure that we're as compliant as we can be with Title IX. And, in my opinion, the way to keep doing that is to keep adding women's programs, instead of just cutting men's programs to get the proportionality in line, because that defeats the purpose.
"The whole point of Title IX is to be an antidiscrimination statute, but it's also meant to provide opportunities for women and girls. So, as an administrator, I always think that my goal is to continue providing more opportunities for women and to make sure that women now and in the next generations have more and more opportunities so that they can reap the benefits of competition in athletics."
In addition to his role as a college administrator, Walker has seen first-hand a more personal side of the benefits.
"Obviously, Title IX has had a tremendous impact on college athletics. You can see a number of opportunities we have here at American University, and that's all because of Title IX pushing that forward years ago," Walker said. "By studying the theoretical impact of Title IX, being a college practitioner, and coaching my daughter's teams for years, I've witnessed the long-term benefits increased athletic opportunities provide. These opportunities are emblematic of a generation of progress as a result of Title IX.
"I think anyone who's been associated with AU athletics knows what a giant Barb is, and not just in our department but at the institution," Walker said. "She was, of course, a beacon, so to speak, for women's athletics, but even for men's athletics - she worked tirelessly to provide opportunities to help everybody. But she was a trailblazer for women's athletics, and that's something that we're really proud of, to have her associated still with our institution."
"I think she feels like it's our responsibility to carry the torch and make sure that women are getting fair and equal treatment," Argyropoulos said. "I think that really is kind of her persona, that was her fight for so long. First and foremost, she's an educator, and then a coach and administrator, and that was how she lived her life and continues to live her life - making sure there are always opportunities."
Now, 45 years after Title IX, what kind of progress is Reimann still looking to see in women's sport?
"I would like to see more women coaches," Reimann said. "That does bother me, and it bothers me that there aren't more women officials.
"But it amazes me that people still celebrate Title IX and still talk about it," Reimann continued. "It's been very satisfying to see how these opportunities have come around for young women, and that they have the chance to receive the kind of training that they do. And it was just good that we had so many women in this area [back in the 1960s and 1970s] to really push for this."