June 13, 2022 

“We Are Title IX”

WBL trailblazers share their Title IX experiences

The story of Title IX starts before the law was passed. 

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For Peggy Kennedy, it started in the early 1960s. She grew up playing with her brother and other boys from the neighborhood.  

“When you get two teams, you’d go to a playground or you’d go to a park, you’d go somewhere,”  Kennedy told The Next. “And I would follow my brother. And we would play basketball, football and baseball.” 

Though she was young, she’d be teased by the other boys. Her brother defended her, saying things like “That’s why she’s on our team. And you’re not,” she recalled. 

In the third grade, Kennedy’s mother came into school for a parent-teacher conference and was told that her daughter had to play with the girls during recess and couldn’t continue to play with the boys. Though Kennedy’s mom fought it, Peggy had to do what the teacher told her. 

Title IX’s 37 words changed the trajectory of the lives of young people, not just in the 1970s but in the decades that followed. 

“Bill Byrne got the idea to start women’s pro basketball because he felt that women’s basketball would be the biggest benefactor of Title IX,” Molly (Bolin) Kazmer told The Next. “And it was, it produced huge growth in the sport. So he saw the trajectory that it was starting to take and felt that it was time for a women’s pro basketball league, and primarily because of Title IX.” 

The trailblazers of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL), the first women’s professional basketball league that operated from 1978 to 1981, seized not just the athletic opportunities of Title IX, but also the academic ones, and ran with them. 

“When Title IX came along, we were in high school, we had no clue about Title IX, as most didn’t,” Elizabeth Galloway-McQuitter told The Next. “And I didn’t know how it would impact our lives, or how we would impact Title IX.”

Athletic and academic opportunities 

Peggy Kennedy, who graduated from high school in 1973, did not feel the impact of Title IX until she went to college. After attending Western Illinois University, where she didn’t play basketball, she transferred to Northern Arizona University.

Peggy Kennedy goes up for a layup
Peggy Kennedy goes up for a layup. Photo Courtesy of Kennedy.

She wasn’t recruited and didn’t receive a scholarship, however, after her first semester Kennedy asked her coach if she could get a scholarship. The tuition waiver she received was particularly impactful for her as an out-of-state student, but also for her family. 

Attending college was a where — not an if — for Kennedy and her siblings, but the costs added up for their parents. After Kennedy’s mother died she found a letter her mother had written; the letter noted that the tuition waiver Kennedy received allowed her parents to get dental work done with the money that otherwise would have gone to Kennedy’s tuition. 

In three seasons at Northern Arizona Kennedy averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. As of 2014 she was still first in program history in points and rebounds per game over the course of her career and the only player in program history to average a double-double. In addition, as of 2014 Kennedy also still held the program record for points in a single game after scoring 45 against Utah State on Feb. 10, 1978. 

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Molly Kazmer grew up in Iowa where the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union was created in 1925. While she was in high school, Kazmer and her teammates were treated the same as the boys’ basketball team. This included alternating early and late practices, equal gym time and having double header games. 

After graduating high school in 1975, Kazmer went on to Grand View College (now Grand View University), a small Lutheran College in Des Moines where she would go on to graduate with her associate’s degree in telecommunications.

During her time there, Grand View was in the process of transitioning from a two-year to a four-year school. In Kazmer’s first season, the women’s teams competed as a small college, playing against junior colleges and teams like Delta State and 10 other nationally ranked AIAW programs. The men’s teams played as a junior college.

In her first year at Grand View, and first season playing 5-on-5 basketball (having played 6-on-6 in high school) Kazmer averaged 14.1 points per game during the 1975-76 season. Kazmer did not play during the 1976-1977 season after giving birth to her son. She averaged 24.6 points per game during the 1977-78 season. 

Rod Lein, who later became the general manager for the WBL’s Iowa Cornets, coached Kazmer in her first season at Grand View.  

“When she was out of a game, we didn’t score. The year she missed, the team went 1-24. So I guess we didn’t win either,” Rod Lein told Sports Illustrated in 1981

When she came back to the program for the 1977-78 season most of her teammates had left and many things were different, including the coach. Despite this, she averaged 24.6 points per game that season. 

Grand View allotted Lein a budget for scholarships, so Kazmer was able to receive whatever money she needed outside of her grants. Getting the scholarship made it possible for Kazmer to play basketball in college as she was the fifth of six kids and came from a household where her father worked in construction and was “frequently unemployed.”

The focus on women’s basketball was felt at Grand View and Kazmer recalled beating Iowa State and Iowa “by like 50 points” noting, “it made such a huge difference to have some focus on a women’s program prior to the NCAA.”

“I mean, we were treated equally, even through high school, and in college,” Kazmer said. “Everybody knew who the players were, and we packed the gym in college; it only held like 2,500 people — it was a small, small gym — but we were treated with a lot of respect.”

Galloway-McQuitter earned a scholarship to Temple Junior College (now Temple College), under Frances “Fran” Garmon, but noted, “I don’t think it was a direct result of Title IX as much as it was [Garmon] being who she was at Temple. And she was able to get some funding for us.” 

After winning the first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Women’s Basketball Championship in 1975 and earning her associate’s degree in sociology, Galloway-McQuitter transferred to UNLV where she was recruited on a full athletic scholarship. She would go on to earn her bachelor’s degree in physical education which helped her as she went on to coach at the collegiate level for 20 years before getting certified to teach physical education, health and English. 

1976-77 UNLV Women's Basketball team photo.Second from the right in the second row is Elizabeth Galloway-McQuitter.
The 1976-77 UNLV Women’s Basketball Team Photo. Second from the right in the second row is Elizabeth Galloway-McQuitter. Photo Courtesy of UNLV Athletics.

“That’s all I’ve known is full athletic scholarships,” Galloway-McQuitter said. “So it impacted my career completely. It paid for my college, and the end result was always to get an education. Why? Because there wasn’t a pro league. Nobody was thinking of a pro league. That didn’t come till after we graduated.” 

Galloway-McQuitter noted that while they traveled by plane to games, had a per diem and got nice uniforms, not everything was equal with the men’s basketball team at UNLV. 

“That wasn’t the case, then. And that’s not the case now,” she said. “So I think that false sense of security because you came from nothing to get — all of a sudden now you get something that the men were already getting — you are kind of under the assumption that you’ve made it, that you’ve arrived, that Title IX is working for you just like it’s working for the men. And that’s the same thing then and it’s the same thing now.”

During the 1970s, not everyone earned a scholarship, including Patricia “Trish” Roberts, who had to work her way through school while also receiving Pell Grants and taking out loans. She attended North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia), Emporia Kansas State College (now Emporia State University) and Tennessee and did not receive a scholarship at any of the three schools. 

College was not originally in Roberts’ plans for her life after high school, but after a couple of months working a sewing machine in a factory she went to her high school guidance counselor and asked what she needed to do to get into college.

The coach at North Georgia had previously sent Roberts a letter asking if she would be interested in playing basketball at the school. With that being the only letter she had received Roberts really wanted to go there, and in January 1974, Roberts started at North Georgia.

During the 1974-75 season, Emporia State’s first with a women’s basketball team, Roberts’ averaged 23.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game en route to finishing fourth at the National AIAW Small College Women’s Basketball Tournament. The next year she averaged 27.8 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. At Emporia State, she also set records that still stood as of 2021 with 305 made field goals in a season and a 64.3% season field goal percentage. 

Patricia “Trish” Roberts goes up for a layup in a game against Immaculata University.
Patricia “Trish” Roberts goes up for a layup in a game against Immaculata University. Photo Courtesy of Roberts.

At Tennessee Roberts averaged 29.9 points (987 total points on 428 field goals) and 14.2 rebounds during the 1976-77 season, single-season scoring and rebounding records that still stand today. She also still holds the Tennessee women’s basketball records for points (51), field goals (24) and rebounds (24) in a single game. 

Roberts majored in health and physical education and after playing in the WBL eventually went on to get her master’s in sport administration and coached for nearly three decades. 

Retha Swindell started playing organized basketball as a freshman in high school, shortly before Title IX was passed. Like Roberts, Swindell was not given an athletic scholarship, but while she was being recruited by Texas she was told about an academic scholarship for which she was eligible. If she hadn’t gone to Texas she would have likely gone to Prairie View A&M University like her siblings had. 

At Texas she double majored in math and physical education and eventually taught math and coached both basketball and track and field. 

At Texas, Swindell scored 1,795 points (currently 8th most in Longhorn women’s basketball history) and grabbed 1,759 rebounds (first in Longhorn women’s basketball history). She is the only person in Texas women’s basketball history to average double digit rebounds per game over the course of a career with a minimum of 50 games (11.6). 

While attending college she noticed several disparities between the men’s and women’s teams. 

“I think they traveled on charter buses, and we traveled in vans, that was pretty obvious to see,” Swindell said. “They had a training table at one of the dorms, and we did not … And there were a lot of things that we didn’t have budget wise.”

Debra K. Thomas was one year ahead of Swindell at Center High School in Center, TX and started playing organized basketball as a freshman in high school. Before that she played in her backyard or in her neighborhood. 

“There weren’t too many girls out playing ball at that time so I had to play with the guys and that’s how I got all my talent that I got and became as good as I did, just hanging out with them,” Thomas told The Next

Thomas noted that while she would have gone to college without Title IX, it gave her opportunities on the court. “It gave me the opportunity to play with other people that I never knew anything about, learn more about them and learn more about the game,” she said. 

She played 6-on-6 in high school and didn’t start playing 5-on-5 until she arrived at Panola Junior College (now Panola College), where she started her college career. When she got there she wasn’t sure how she would adapt to the different rules. 

“I was afraid to do that, I was scared to death because we’d never done that before. And I didn’t think I could run up that court,” she said. 

Thomas adjusted to 5-on-5 basketball quickly and was the school’s first women’s NJCAA All American. She also earned honorable mention All-American at Stephen F. Austin, where she finished her college career. During the 1977-78 season at Stephen F. Austin, Thomas averaged 18.6 points per game. 

At Stephen F. Austin, Thomas recalls people wanting to see the women’s basketball games more than the men’s basketball games because the women were winning more.  

“That was my biggest support that made me want to be a better player and a better person, just being surrounded by those people,” Thomas said. 

While at Panola, Thomas earned her associate’s degree but didn’t graduate from Stephen F. Austin because she was drafted to the WBL after she toured Asia with USA Basketball. 

She later received the opportunity to go back to Stephen F. Austin as a graduate assistant, but the same day that she paid all of her fees, her mom had a heart attack and Thomas decided to stay and take care of her. 

Attending college would have been difficult for Charlene McWhorter Jackson — who grew up in a single-parent household — if not for Title IX.  

She grew up playing basketball in her neighborhood with boys but joined her high school team after growing more than six inches in one summer — in part — to get out of raking the leaves in her family’s yard with her sisters. McWhorter Jackson’s high school teams often outdrew the boys’ team. 

In high school, her coach ensured that his team had uniforms, meals on the road and adequate practice time, just like the boy’s team. “In my high school, we were very successful because of them being committed to the programs,” McWhorter Jackson told The Next.

She majored in health and physical education at Albany State College (now Albany State University) because of the impact of her eighth grade physical education teacher and later became a health and physical education teacher and basketball coach herself. 

McWhorter Jackson was named an All-American in 1977 and 1978 and was named Albany State’s Athlete of the Year in 1979. 

Edith Daniels, Albany State head women’s basketball coach at the time, taught her student-athletes about Title IX and selected McWhorter Jackson to be on a conference-sponsored board to help promote Title IX. During these meetings, the representatives of the schools discussed ideas to promote Title IX at the colleges and universities. 

Through this experience, McWhorter Jackson learned that there was some resistance to Title IX and helped to ensure people were aware Title IX could benefit women, even outside of athletics. 

“Because of the opportunities I was afforded, due to Title IX, and due to my basketball experiences, and the commitment of the coaches that I had, when I became a high school coach, I utilized a lot of the stuff that I learned from those early years in building my own program,” McWhorter Jackson said. 

She noted that all of her Title IX experiences were positive because of Daniels. 

During McWhorter Jackson’s four years at Albany State the team played Valdosta State University, Florida State University, Mercer University and the University of Georgia. 

“My coach’s philosophy always was if you want to be among the best, you got to play the best,” McWhorter Jackson said. “So she always made opportunities. We went to — we played Cheyney State when Vivian Stringer was coaching Cheyney State. I mean, she exposed us to a lot of opportunities, because she wanted us to see how things could be or should be. And she did not allow us being at a HBCU to be a reason why we did not gain exposure.”

For Adrian Mitchell-Newell, Title IX was lifechanging. 

After graduating from high school in 1972 Mitchell-Newell worked at City Hall and played AAU basketball, which she had started playing while she was in high school. 

It was at an AAU tournament where Marian Washington spotted her and offered Mitchell-Newell one of the first three women’s basketball scholarships to Kansas. 

Mitchell-Newell didn’t have the opportunity to play organized school sports, instead, Central High School in Kansas City, MO offered a sports day for girls twice a year to see how far girls could throw a softball, run the 100 yard dash and broad jump. 

She started college at 21 after having her daughter at 19 and may have not otherwise attended college without an athletic scholarship. Instead, she became the first person in her family to attend a four year college and graduated with a bachelor’s in general studies in 1979. She eventually went on to coach. 

As a 5’9 post player at Kansas Mitchell-Newell scored 2,124 points and grabbed 1,288 rebounds.

Mitchell-Newell recalled one instance of a failure to enforce Title IX at Kansas. While the women’s basketball team was practicing one day, they were kicked off the court in favor of an opponent for the men’s team that would play the next day. 

“And that didn’t go too well with Coach Washington,” she said. 

“Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know,” Mitchell-Newell later added. “Because you’ve gotten that scholarship to college, and you’re playing and you’re doing what you love to do. And it’s just the way it was and so you accept the way it was, you were just happy to be there.”

Sharing their stories

After using her recreation degree for several years at a park district in Illinois and a career switch to Frito Lay, Kennedy got a teaching certificate and began teaching high school history. Being in the classroom allowed her to share her story with her students.  

“I’ve been telling the stories — it’s just been in small spaces, telling kids … telling them that you have dreams, and you need to follow those dreams,” Kennedy said. 

She supported all of her students that were athletes and loved to watch them play. “If it was basketball it was even better because then the student would come and go ‘I wonder what Ms. Kennedy is going to say about the game the other day,’” Kennedy said. 

Swindell doesn’t remember if or how often she shared her story with her students when she was teaching, saying, “I don’t think I really understood the importance of the story at that time.”

She later added, “It’s hard to see your own value, when you’re living it, you don’t know what impact you’ll have on other’s lives because [it’s] hard to see where it’s going or where the impact [is], and it’s like we said before, a lot of it depends on the environment, where you grow up.” 

As a coach and teacher McWhorter Jackson talked to her students and players about Title IX and the lessons she learned from it. 

“I talked to them about relishing the opportunities that are afforded [to] them,” McWhorter Jackson said. “Because it wasn’t always afforded [to] people — women in particular — that they did not have opportunities all the time. And so Title IX made a lot of things possible.”

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Two main messages that Galloway-McQuitter shares is to demand more and remember, think about, honor and acknowledge the women “who took that Title IX baton and ran with it.”

“Somebody had to be first. And we were the first,” Galloway-McQuitter said. “Our generation was the first. To play the game? No. To accomplish things? No. But after Title IX, we were the first recipients of it. … We are a generation of firsts that have changed the trajectory and grown the sport.”

Mitchell-Newell shared her Title IX story when she coached and ran a summer camp. 

“When the young kids would come in [at camp], I’d give them a little test,” Mitchell-Newell said. “I’d [be] like, the first one of you who comes to me and tells me what Title IX is will get a prize. You know, they were young. So they’d go home, and they’d research and all of them [would be] running up to me trying to tell me what Title IX is.

But yes, I definitely educated them on Title IX and what it was and made sure they knew what their opportunity was and what it provided for me. You just have to do that, you have to let them know the history of why they can play now. Why I was able to play.”

The next 50 years of Title IX

Looking ahead to the next 50 years of Title IX, true equality is front of mind for these former athletes. 

Kennedy wants to see increased opportunities in sports. “[Let] anybody who wants to play, give them that opportunity,” she said. “Because I think sports is such an integral part of one’s life from a social-economic standpoint, for them. I would say it really, I think, for me, it helped me to become a better person, really it did.”

Kazmer hopes in the next fifty years Title IX reaches a point where compliance is not a constant battle.

Galloway-McQuitter hopes that in the next 50 years everybody becomes just a student-athlete, without gender defining them, and that they are judged only as a student-athlete, or athlete, once they leave college. 

McWhorter Jackson believes society has a long way to go in regard to acceptance and recognizing that women have the skill, knowledge and ability to hold traditionally male-dominated positions. 

“If a person has the capability, then they should be given a shot,” McWhorter Jackson said. “And I’m hoping that it gets to that point where it’s not just a fight … for people to look at us as being worthy and deserving of some of the same opportunities that they make available for men.”

While a lot has changed, Mitchell-Newell knows there’s still a long ways to go until things are equal and hopes total compliance with Title IX is coming in the next 50 years.  

“There are studies that show most universities are not and no one nor any designated department holds them accountable,” Mitchell-Newell said. “It requires a female athlete or female athletic program to take drastic measures through a lawsuit or protest in order to make change. I would like to see equality or at least comparability in men and women’s programs. 

Men’s football programs have 60-70 athletes, a large number on scholarship. Most women’s programs have 15 scholarship athletes. The question I asked myself is, ‘What can we do?’ Their program is larger, it requires more athletes, more funds. It is what it is. But, that’s really not fair is it?”

She also noted that while things have come a long way since she received one of the first scholarships from Washington, more is needed and more equality is needed. 

Roberts hopes to see equality, and specifically equal pay, in the future. “I just want things to be equal. I just want things to be equal across the spectrum. As far as numbers, as far as salaries, as far as opportunities,” she said. 

Swindell hopes to see the playing ground leveled sooner than the next 50 years, so she can see it. “I’d like to see the sky be the limit, that people are seen for their value. And not whether they’re male or female,” she said. 

Continuing to shine a spotlight on Title IX will be critical to continue the change, Kennedy noted. 

“If we’re going to be successful, or continue the success and change it, we have to stay out there,” she said. “We have to be in the forefront. We’ve got to keep talking about it, if anything comes up about Title IX—because you know, there’s been Title IX lawsuits.

But we have to keep talking about it. And I think that’s what’s transpired the last 50 years. We put it out there, and more so today than I’ve ever seen it. So I think that hopefully can change some people’s minds and change things.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.


  1. Charlene M Jackson on June 13, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    Natalie, I read the entire article and completely enjoyed all parts of it. Thank you so very much for your professionalism in putting all this material together and thanks to the Next for shining the light on Legends of the Ball and our Title IX stories. It was truly an honor.

  2. Joanie Smith on June 14, 2022 at 10:58 am

    Wonderful article! I enjoy the history lessons from my WBL sisters. They are truly legendary! Long live Title IX! ❤️

  3. Veronica Washington on June 15, 2022 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for writing this article Natalie!! The wealth of history is enlightening and the content is easy to follow.

    I am so very honored to have been coached and mentored by the Great Charlene McWhorter Jackson. I played for Coach Jackson at Westover high school in Albany, Ga. from 1990-1994. While playing for her I did not know the back story. However, Coach always demanded respect and the best from her players on and off the court. She not only demanded the best from us she walked the talk and continued to evolve as a selfless Leader. I am so grateful and thankful for the lessons that she taught me because they have been instrumental in helping me become the successful woman that I am today. Forever indebted Coach!!! Love you forever because you didn’t have to, but you did.

    Thank you to all of the Legends of the Ball trailblazers who paved the way for future generations and to the creators of Title IX for opening doors. Forever grateful.

  4. Elizabeth Galloway McQuitter on August 4, 2022 at 8:06 am

    While Legends of the Ball, Inc. Are proud to jumpstart this series, we are excited for ALL the WBL players to share their stories. This amazing body of women have amazing stories and I cannot wait for them to be told. Thanks to Howard Megdal and his entire group of writers for promoting women’s sports and our sport, basketball. Thank you for sharing a bit of each of our journeys Natalie.

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