February 28, 2022 

Ann Marie Rogers among SEC trailblazers honored for advancing women’s sports

'We weren’t trying to leave a legacy; we were just trying to do what was right'

Ann Marie Rogers loved sports growing up, but she never got the chance to fully participate.

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There was no Title IX to ensure the opportunity was there.

“I always loved sports. My parents played ball with me, my mom did gymnastics with me, but I had no idea that we could have intercollegiate sports for women,” said the 80-year-old former University of Florida Associate Athletics Director. “When I went to school, there were no intercollegiate athletics for women, no scholarships for women.”

“I didn’t have the opportunity to be an athlete, that’s why I’ve been so diligent, I guess, and worked so hard for its success.”

Rogers, who played a significant role in building Florida’s women’s athletic program’s winning reputation, retired in 2003 after joining the school in 1985. As the Senior Women’s Administrator, she was a guiding force in elevating their overall women’s athletic program’s national prominence.

Along with former Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, she is among the 29 individuals being honored during the 2022 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, which kicks off Wednesday, March 2, in Nashville, Tenn.

These SEC Trailblazers are being honored for contributing to the advancement of women and the growth of women’s athletics at their universities and within the Southeastern Conference. Each trailblazer will be honored on court during half-time of their team’s first game of the tournament, as well as with the entire group of honorees on semifinal Saturday.

Others on the list include Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart, Dawn Ellerbe from South Carolina and the legendary Tennessee coach, the late Pat Summitt.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation and federal civil rights law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.

In recognition of the anniversary, the SEC will have a year-long celebration: “50th Anniversary of Title IX: Creating Opportunities.” It will include recognitions at Conference championship events, commemoration of achievements through online and social media channels, commemorative memorabilia and a collaboration with the SEC Network highlighting the advancement of women’s sports.

“I was honored for the University of Florida to send me forth as one of the trailblazers,” Rogers said. “Certainly, things have blossomed in women’s sports, but as I was thinking back, there were also struggles we went through.”

“It took 50 years for us to get to big crowds that some of the women’s basketball schools are enjoying and for the opportunities that women have now for scholarships and to go on into professional sports,” said Rogers, who once served on a committee for the state of Florida charged with traveling around to schools to ensure they were abiding by Title IX.

“We went through a lot of struggles trying to get practice times, uniforms and more. There were rough times, but I do look back with a sense of pride. Women’s sports have grown, and it’s been a pleasure to watch it grow.”

Foley, who retired in 2016 after 25 years as Florida’s AD (the longest term in school history), was also instrumental in advancing not just all sports but women’s sports in particular. Three women’s sports were added under Foley; soccer, softball and lacrosse. During his tenure, the school produced 27 national championships, 24 SEC All-Sports trophies and the second-highest graduation rate in the SEC.

He said he didn’t think of leaving a legacy at Florida; “I was only doing what was right.”

“It’s a tremendous honor to be named to SEC Trailblazer list. I am very proud of the work we did during my time at Florida, with women’s athletics,” he said. “We did a lot when I was AD, but I didn’t do it by myself.”

Foley said he recognized how “special these athletes and coaches were” and wanted to help make a difference. “To go to their games, meets, matches… they were incredible athletes and always brought such great credit to our university.”

“We weren’t trying to leave a legacy; we were just trying to do what was right and what was right was promoting and making sure that women had every opportunity to be successful.”

Foley came to Florida in 1976, four years after Title IX was passed. He knew it was a legal requirement but always felt it was much more than that. “I always thought we had a moral obligation to do what was right. We didn’t need some law to tell us that we needed to be treating women equally, but I think obviously Title IX brought it to the forefront and people started making women’s athletics a priority.”

“I know it hasn’t been easy in some places, but the end result is what we see today. A lot of incredible parts of my career at Florida were certainly watching what our women’s athletic program has become, and being a little part of that and watching new sports added will always be one of the highlights of my career.”

Below is the full list of the SEC Trailblazers:

Sarah Patterson, Alabama

Marie Robbins, Alabama

Bev Lewis, Arkansas

Linda Bedford-Jackson, Arkansas

Dr. Jane Moore, Auburn (deceased)

Meredith Jenkins, Auburn (deceased)

Susan Nunnelly, Auburn

Jeremy Foley, Florida

Ann Marie Rogers, Florida

Liz Murphy, Georgia (deceased)

Carla Williams, Georgia

Bernadette Locke-Mattox, Kentucky

Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky

D-D Breaux, LSU

Joyce Walker, LSU

Samye Johnson, Mississippi State

Ann Carr, Mississippi State

Jean Cerra, Missouri

Joann Rutherford, Missouri

Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Ole Miss

Lynnette Johnson, Ole Miss

Dawn Ellerbe, South Carolina

Sheila Foster, South Carolina

Pat Summitt, Tennessee (deceased)

Joan Cronan, Tennessee

Vicki Brown Sobecki, Texas A&M

Brenda Goldsmith Hocott, Texas A&M

Sharon Shields, Vanderbilt

Teresa Lawrence Phillips, Vanderbilt

Written by Dorothy J. Gentry

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