AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) – The Texas Panhandle has one of the richest histories for women’s basketball at the high school and collegiate level, but these legacies may not have happened if Title IX was not signed 50 years ago.
”I just thank the good Lord for Title IX because you know it changed everything and it just got better and better after that,” said Bob Schneider, former West Texas A&M and Canyon High women’s basketball head coach.
It took 37 words to change the course of education starting in 1972. Title IX, which was signed by President Richard Nixon, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sports were never mentioned in the bill, but it created an opportunity for change.
“All the Amarillo schools did not have girls basketball because they only played a couple of sports. Maybe golf and tennis for girls,” said Marsha Sharp, former Texas Tech women’s basketball head coach.
That was not the case for small schools as experienced by Betsy Baughman.
“When I was growing up I never dreamed that there was inequality at Groom at the middle school or the high school,” said Baughman, Groom girls basketball and former Tascosa head coach. “You know we lifted weights with the boys. We played with the boys. They even asked us to play football, but we didn’t.”
Baughman played college basketball at West Texas A&M under Bob Schneider who spent 25 of his 43-year career leading the Lady Buffs. I have tallied 585 wins and 163 losses.
“You know I’ve got a daughter,” said Schneider. “She played two years for me at WT and I would definitely vote for Title IX if guys could play then girls could play.”
West Texas A&M’s Fieldhouse known as ‘The Box’ is where head coach and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Schneider left a legacy. He led the Lady Buffs to an 85 home game win streak, but more importantly bridged the gap between women and men’s athletics.
“We were very fortunate to have Coach Schneider because he just didn’t stand by and say this is okay or this is how it is,” said Baughman. “He really fought for equality and a lot more opportunity for the girls.”
Texas Tech Title IX pioneer Marsha Sharp led the Lady Raiders to a National Championship in 1993.
“Title IX was incredibly important,” said Sharp. “It made universities give the same amount of scholarships for women’s basketball as you gave for men.”
One of her guards was Spearman native Krista Gerlich.
“Because I was able to get a scholarship and go to school on a basketball scholarship,” said Gerlich, Texas Tech women’s basketball head coach. “It opened my eyes to the collegiate level and the profession of coaching.”
Today women make up 44 percent of all college athletes compared to 15 percent before Title IX. Seeing improvement is success.
“You know I thought a State Championship was the ultimate dream and really coaching me at Horace Mann for 10 years and turning that program around and being at Tascosa and turning those programs around I think those were probably much more rewarding than the State Championship,” said Baughman. “Even though it’s great. I just want every coach to know it is not the ultimate.”
After 50 years the younger generation of coaches appreciates the pioneers who paved the way.
“People in our area in the Panhandle love women’s basketball. I went to many sold out gyms as a kid and I can remember them,” said Brooke Walthall, Randall girls basketball head coach and Baughman’s daughter. “Levelland games playing Canyon and I was a young kid in the stands. I just think I was blessed with wonderful people who have loved the game.”
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