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Archives Turns Women’s History Spotlight on Women’s Basketball

By Nora O’Connor

Since 1995, presidents have issued annual proclamations to designate March as Women’s History Month. These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize specific achievements in a variety of fields. Women's History Month coincidentally aligns with March Madness — the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

In the wake of the pandemic and the cancellation of March Madness, the University Archives and Special Collections would like to present this brief look at the tournament’s history and the University’s athletics evolution.

The first Division I women’s tournament was held in 1982 with Louisiana Tech becoming the first champion. According to data collected by the NCAA, women’s teams have outnumbered men’s teams nationally on college campuses since the 1996-97 season, when women inched ahead for the first time with 7,618 teams to the men’s 7,608. Today 10,586 women’s teams participate in NCAA competition sports, compared with 9,159 men’s teams. 

The NCAA has been tracking data since the 1981-82 academic year, the first year in which the NCAA offered championships in women’s sports. The number of student athletes nationally since then has doubled. The University of Dayton has seen comparable growth, with 476 student-athletes (247 of them women) competing in 15 sports. University of Dayton spent $5,628,072 on women’s teams and brought in $2,802,959 in revenue.

The popularity of basketball has long existed on the University of Dayton campus and skyrocketed in the 2019-20 school year with both the men’s and women’s teams winning their regular-season Atlantic 10 championships.

The 2020 women’s team was the fifth since 2013 in UD’s history to win the A-10 title in the regular season. The UD women’s basketball team has made eight NCAA tournament appearances since 2010 (2010-15, 2017-18). In the 2015 NCAA tournament, the women’s team made it to the Elite Eight.

Women’s basketball had its inaugural season as a varsity sport in the 1968-69 season.

Women have had a presence as students on the University of Dayton campus since 1935, when the first 31 female students were admitted into the College of Women. Women played sports at UD from the beginning. In September 1935, the Women’s Athletic Association elected its first officers. The first women’s sports offered on campus included basketball, tennis, volleyball, riding and hiking. The earliest women’s varsity athletic team picture in the University Archives dates to 1964, followed by photos of teams in the 1980s and later. The women’s basketball team deserves much credit and public recognition for its rich history and impressive accomplishments in recent years.

— Nora O’Connor is a senior majoring in history. She has been a student employee in University Archives and Special Collections since October 2019. 

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