Nov. 11, 2012
By Amy Hughes
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Female athletes from the full span of UCLA Athletics history gathered in Pauley Pavilion and mingled in the Pavilion Club prior to Saturday's women's basketball season opener against San Diego State. The large crowd of former student-athletes, coaches and friends, was welcomed by Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator Petrina Long, Chancellor Gene Block, and Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero.
Of UCLA's 108 NCAA Championships, 37 are women's sports. The Bruins' first men's championship was men's tennis in 1950. Women's sports were not brought under the NCAA umbrella until the 1981-82 school year, and the Bruins won two titles that first year (softball, outdoor track and field), and also captured the inaugural NCAA Championship in women's water polo when that sport became an NCAA Championship in 2001.
Adam Krikorian, a member of UCLA's 1995 NCAA Championship men's water polo team, launched his coaching career working with the Bruins men's and women's water polo programs, culminating in coaching the United States women to a gold medal last August in London.
Krikorian was a student-athlete when the UCLA women's water polo program was started and has seen the program grow to include seven NCAA Championships, all with Krikorian as UCLA's head coach.
"The first class [of women's water polo players] that came in were people who I ended up coaching, then coaching with, and now I'm best of friends with them. Nicolle Payne, Coralie Simmons, they were the beginning."
Since that beginning, Krikorian has seen women's water polo grow to where it is today, with the United States on the gold medal podium at the Olympics.
"When I say growth, I certainly mean the number of teams, the number of people playing the sport, but when I talk about growth, it's more about confidence. Seeing the confidence grow in these young women in the sports world and knowing that they have a place, that they can dominate and do great things in the world of athletics and sports. It started long before me, but it continues to develop and get stronger.
"Like anything else, it's always better when you can share it with other people. It started with people like Ann Meyers and Sharron Backus, Sue Enquist and Judith Holland, and the other people in this room. It's an honor and privilege to have been a part of it when it initially happened."
Krikorian continued, "The cool thing for me, is that UCLA was the pioneer to get it going. Because of that, we dominated in women's sports over countless years, and helped our country pioneer women's sports. The great thing about this last Olympics is that you saw the benefits of our country's support of Title IX and women's sports. You saw it with the gold medal performances in women's water polo [with Krikorian serving as the head coach of the U.S. team] and women's soccer. It's exciting to be a part of that progress."
Ann Meyers Drysdale and Sue Enquist were two of the former Bruin student-athletes that spoke to the assembled crowd.
"Both of us came here in 1975, and we were so grateful for the women that were already here to open up the doors for us. Administrators and coaches and the parents and families who were all supportive," said Drysdale.
"It's great that we're celebrating our 40th anniversary for Title IX," said Drysdale. "The fact that Title IX is still around is great. We all know what it has produced. It was an education bill for those who don't know what it was. It was supposed to pave the way for women.
"Women get 72¢ on the dollar today, and minority women get 10¢ less than that," said Drysdale. "We're still working on it. But the fact that these young women can have an education, at such a wonderful university like UCLA through athletics, that's great."
"It was exciting to be here and have a woman by the name of Judith Holland come in," said Enquist of her early days at UCLA. "It wasn't about equal numbers. It was about we're going to bring in excellence everywhere we look. And when I arrived here, it was the first time that I'd ever experienced that winning was not an event. Judith Holland taught me that winning is a lifestyle, and excellence is micro behaviors that are connected through every part of your day."
The collection of UCLA women's athletic greatness at the event was seemingly endless. Head women's track and field coach Jeanette Bolden, also a UCLA alum, added powerful words about her experiences. Bolden was a student-athlete on UCLA's 1982 NCAA Championship outdoor track and field team and won an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Olympics as part of the 400m relay team.
"Who would have thought that a young lady born in Compton, California, born with asthma, is now standing in front of you with a degree from UCLA in sociology, a gold medalist, a coach that's coached gold medalists," said Bolden.
"I've been a part of five NCAA Championships here at UCLA. Two as a student-athlete, three as a coach. I was recruited here in a trailer. My speech, the great speech of why you should come to UCLA and how great it is, was in a trailer. I came to UCLA because of the passion. I came to UCLA because of the greatness. I came to UCLA because it's UCLA. I am at UCLA now, because I am a Bruin. I am at UCLA because UCLA doesn't mean that we're trailblazers. We find a path that no other school has dared to find. We set the pace. We have always set the pace."
Families were welcome at the event, and Nora Legaspi, mother of UCLA softball alum and current volunteer assistant coach Jodie Legaspi-Kiaha, insisted that her daughter bring her to Saturday's celebration.
"I remember watching Denise [Corlett] play volleyball in college, and now she's an Associate Head Coach at Stanford," said Legaspi. "I'm the same age as them, but to see what is happening now and see the sports grow ... it is amazing to see the people here tonight and the growth of sports.
Legaspi played sports in high school and was a walk-on for two years in college in the late 70's.
"As a walk-on athlete, the opportunities for sports weren't what they are now. I have seen the growth of [women's] sports and the opportunities that the girls have now is just outstanding."
Legaspi recalled her daughter's UCLA aspirations. "Jodie always wanted to come to UCLA. As a child, it was her dream. I remember taking her to a clinic in Long Beach to work with Lisa Fernandez and Dot Richardson right after the 1996 Olympics. Now she's working side-by-side with Lisa and Kelly [Inouye-Perez] and Kirk [Walker] and she has come full circle. I'm so thankful to Sue Enquist, or she wouldn't have had that kind of opportunity.
"Title IX has made a great impact on me," finished Legaspi. "It made such an impact on Jodie's life, and I felt the struggles of always wanting to be a better athlete for myself. I wanted those opportunities for Jodie as well. She had some God-given talent but it was awesome to see the growth for her to go through travel ball and high school with all those different championships and then to go into college, she was ready for that challenge. It was awesome."
One of the most popular dignitaries at the event was Billie Moore, the head coach of UCLA's 1978 AIAW National Championship team. Moore was constantly surrounded by her players from her UCLA teams and was honored at halftime of the basketball game as part of UCLA's Title IX 40.
"Those young ladies [on her teams in the 1970s] played the game purely because they loved to play and they loved to compete," said Moore. "Travel wasn't first class. We stayed four to a hotel room. We traveled in vans and cars. No one ever complained.
"Someone has to make the sacrifice. Hopefully the student-athletes of today will understand that their role is not just for them but to make the opportunities better for another generation to follow."
Moore was impressed by the renovations to Pauley Pavilion but was more impressed by the group of alumnae gathered in the Pavilion Club and what those people meant to women's athletics at UCLA.
"You always want progress to happen," said Moore. "I think [attending the re-opening of Pauley for women's basketball] will mean more because of who I'm going to spend this moment with. A lot of former players that have a very special place in my heart will be here to see the re-opening of Pauley. We don't always remember days, but you remember moments. I'm sure this will be a moment we will all cherish."
Long summed up the evening by saying, "It's such a humbling experience to be a female administrator at UCLA. To see in this room tonight the amazing women who were pioneers here. Administrators, coaches, faculty reps, as well as our former Chancellors, the current Chancellor, supporters, parents, husbands, wives ... it's amazing to see the impact that UCLA women's athletes have had on the emergence of women not only in sport but really coming into society and contributing. As we know, women are now more represented than men in the college undergraduate ranks. We are moving forward, and it's just amazing to be a part of UCLA where we have such a storied history."