Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women
The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was founded in 1971 to govern collegiate women's athletics in the United States and to administer national championships. It evolved out of the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (founded in 1967). The association was one of the biggest stepping stones for women's athletics on the collegiate level. After conflicts with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the early 1980s the AIAW discontinued operation and most member schools continued their women's athletics programs under the governance of the NCAA. For a list of tournament winners, see the article on AIAW National Champions.
Women's intercollegiate athletics was first organized on a national basis in 1941, the year the first national collegiate championship was held in the sport of golf. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, many colleges around the country had started women's sports teams that competed with other schools in their respective geographic area. In 1956 the Tripartite Committee was formed by representatives of three organizations: the National Association for Physical Education for College Women, the National Association for Girls' and Women's Sport, and the American Federation of College Women.
Upon the recommendation of the Tripartite Committee, the National Joint Committee on Extramural Sports for College Women (NJCESCW) was formed to guide and administer women's intercollegiate athletic programs. The desire to consolidate governance of women's intercollegiate athletics under one organization led to the designation of the Division for Girls' and Women's Sports (DGWS) (operating under the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation) for this purpose. Out of the NJCESCW committee grew the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW), in recognition of the need for expanding national championships. The purposes of the CIAW were (1) to provide the framework and organization for women's intercollegiate athletic opportunities and (2) to sponsor national championships for college women under the guidance of the DGWS.
The AIAW developed from the CIAW in recognition of the need for institutional membership and elected representation. Formation of the AIAW was approved by the DGWS Council and the AAHPER Board of Directors in 1971, but the CIAW continued to operate until July 1, 1972, at which time the AIAW officially came into existence, with over 280 schools as members.
NCAA Has No Interest in Women's Sports
At that point the NCAA had no interest in women's athletics, and administrators of the AIAW had no interest in the NCAA either. The NCAA was seen as being commercially driven and neglecting the meaning of the student athlete. There were distinct differences between the two associations early on. For example, students playing in AIAW were allowed to transfer freely between schools and programs were initially forbidden to offer scholarships and recruit off-campus to prevent unfair advantages. The AIAW was not without criticism either though, as many outsiders and some individual members continuously complained that the association devoted too much of time, efforts, and funds securing distinction and independence from the NCAA.
The annual basketball and softball national tournaments received the most publicity and drew the biggest crowds; however, the association organized championships in various other sports. Aside from national championships, individual schools worked together to stage annual state championships.
While in existence, the AIAW organized and administered all competition at the regional and national levels. In 1981-82 the organization offered 41 national championships in 19 sports - badminton, basketball, crew, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, indoor track and field, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball (fast and slow pitch), swimming and diving, synchronized swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
The 1973 Basketball Tournament was the first sign that women's sports could be financially successful. Over 3,000 fans watched the final game between Queens and Immaculata and the tournament earned over $4,500 in profits. In 1975 these two teams met again, this time in Madison Square Garden. The first women's basketball game to be played in the arena drew a crowd of more than 12,000 spectators. The AIAW started to take advantage of corporate sponsorships and television payouts not unlike its male counterpart, just on a smaller scale.
In 1972, the Congress of the United States passed Title IX, which was laid out to require colleges to provide equal opportunities for both genders in collegiate athletics. Any school receiving federal funds was required to provide gender equality by the 1978-79 school year. In 1974 colleges started giving scholarships to female student athletes. That year, Ann Meyers became the first female to receive a full scholarship by committing to play for UCLA. Title IX is credited with the vast improvement in funding for women's athletics. By 1980, the average university spent over 16% of their athletics budget on women's sports. In the early 1970s that number was less than 1%.
On June 1, 1979, AIAW assumed a separate legal identity and became a nonprofit corporation in the District of Columbia. The AIAW ceased operation on June 30, 1983, after suffering substantial losses of members and revenue following the National Collegiate Athletics Association's (NCAA) decision to offer championships for women in its top competitive division, Division I.
AIAW vs. NCAA
At its peak, the AIAW had almost 1,000 member schools. In the late seventies however, schools began to realize that women's athletics could be profitable, and the NCAA decided to offer women's championships. The NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III offered championships early on, but NCAA Division I members failed to gain a majority vote on this issue until the 1981 national meeting.
The battle of members had started, as schools whose men's teams were already participating in the NCAA started to integrate their women's teams. In 1982 the first NCAA Division I Women's Tournament was held. The NCAA was able to offer incentives such as transportation cost to participating members, something the AIAW was not able to do. Since former AIAW powerhouses like Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, and Old Dominion decided to participate in the NCAA tournament, the AIAW tournament lost much of its appeal and popularity. NBC canceled its TV contract with the association. The remaining members decided to sue the NCAA to remain independent, but they lost their case, and after 1982 the AIAW had stopped operations.
Under NCAA governance, scholarships increased, and joint athletics departments were able to provide bigger travel and recruiting budgets. However, several problems the NCAA was facing then, and still is, affected women's intercollegiate athletics. Examples of these are dropping graduation rates and an increased turnover in coaching positions.
- Joanne Lannin A History of Basketball for Girls and Women. Lerner Publications Company. Minneapolis, 2000
- Virginia Hunt, "Governance of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics: an Historical Perspective," (Doctoral Dissertation, University of North Carolina - Greensboro, 1976), Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms (1977), 1-319
- Suzanne Willey, "The Governance of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics: Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), 1976-1982," (Thesis (P.E.D.), Indiana University, 1996), Eugene, Oregon: Microform Publications (1997), 1-351
- Guide to the Collection of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Southern Region II 1971-1983 Compiled by Nell Hensley, Eastern Kentucky University
- Organization of College Basketball
- AIAW National Champions
- Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women
- A fight to the death: NCAA vs. AIAW
- Women's sports enter NCAA arena
- The Lawsuit that Ruined Women's Control of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women?
- Guide to the Collection of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Southern Region II
- Title IX (Academic syllabus)
- "The Union of Athletics With Educational Institutions," Athletics and Education, D. Siegel