When key decisions were made in the Colorado athletic department just a decade ago, there was generally only one woman with a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion.
The gender ratios have changed dramatically in the intervening years with six women filling senior level administrative jobs under athletic director Mike Bohn. Some of the credit for that change goes to Bohn, a man raised by a strong mother who has spent her life as a steward for athletic programs for Boulder's girls and boys. Some credit belongs to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which required schools and colleges receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for girls as they did for boys.
And some of the credit obviously is due to the women who have worked hard in a male dominated segment of society for decades to earn their spot at the table.
Three of those female leaders at CU grew up in Mid-America in a pre-Title IX world in the 1960s and early 70s and didn't reap the benefits of the law as athletes the way they have as coaches and administrators.
Ceal Barry, Julie Manning and Kris Livingston learned from pioneering female athletic administrators such as Elaine Hieber and Pam Wettig. They know from their personal and professional success that Title IX helped level the playing field for girls and women in some ways, but they are also in positions to know how it continues to fall short.
'Ceal the Tom Boy'
Barry marvels at the sheer number of role models girls and young women have to look up to today in the sports world compared to those nights laying on her bed in her childhood home in Louisville, Ky.
There were no female athletes as prominent as Serena Williams, Danica Patrick and Abby Wambach are today. Barry grew up watching the New York Yankees or Bart Starr playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers on a black and white television. She spent dozens of winter days and nights listening to University if Louisville men's basketball games on the radio when Wes Unseld and Butch Beard led the team.
"My whole world was men's sports," Barry said.
At that time in the late 1960s, public schools in her hometown did not have sports teams for girls. If a girl wanted to compete athletically, she had to wait for summer softball or attend one of the nine all-girl Catholic schools in town that did provide athletic opportunities for girls in sports such as field hockey, basketball and track and field.
The one place where Barry could turn to find examples of other girls succeeding in sports was the pages of her older sisters' yearbooks from Assumption High School, one of those nine Catholic schools.
"My role models were anonymous girls in the yearbooks who had captions underneath the black and white photos," Barry said. "There they were playing basketball in photos in the yearbooks. ... Those were my role models. To this day, I've never met them, but they were girls playing organized sports."
Barry also had strong advocates for her athletic pursuits in her parents. In an age when girls were expected to set the table for dinner and help with cooking or play dolls, Barry's father allowed her to play basketball with her five brothers and other boys from the neighborhood.
Barry said despite the encouragement from her parents, it was still a time of conflict for her.
"It was not all positive," she said. "I was a quote, unquote Tom Boy, and that was not a positive label, Ceal the Tom Boy. That was not a positive label when you're 12."
But Ceal the Tom Boy went on to become a field hockey and basketball player at the University of Kentucky. She didn't receive any financial aid in college until her senior year when Title IX law was finally being enforced in the mid-1970s.
When her college career ended and her athletic opportunities dried up, Barry kept her competitive spirit fueled through coaching. She won 510 games coaching Division I women's teams at Cincinnati and CU and she remains the winningest coach in any sport at Colorado with 427 career victories. She retired from coaching in 2005 and a month later accepted an administrative job in the athletic department.
Not surprisingly, her role has expanded dramatically in seven years and she now fills the senior women's administrator post. She oversees men's and women's basketball as well as women's soccer, volleyball and golf. She also is supervisor for the sports medicine, strength and conditioning, academic support and student wellness sections of the athletic department.
Barry said that Title IX has helped girls and women make major progress in high school and college sports by requiring equal access and treatment in areas such as facilities, travel, recruiting and coaching. But she says there is plenty of room for improvement at CU and across the nation in "more ambiguous, less measurable areas" such as external operations of athletic departments like marketing, promoting, attendance, development, donors and fundraising.
Barry has made the case numerous times in lectures on campus over the past 20 years that the media plays as big a role as any other segment of society in the success or failure of women's sports. The media is not bound by Title IX, which Barry believes is a problem, even a shackle at times for women's sports.
"Look at the front page of the sports page for seven days and see how many articles are about girls or women," she said. "High schools is most equitable. College is second. Pros, whether it be LPGA or WNBA or women's soccer that just folded, you ain't going to find that. ... I think the general public responds to what the media deems newsworthy."
'You have to be at the table'
Julie Manning grew up in a forward-thinking community in Granger, Iowa, in the 1960s and 1970s.
Girls had more opportunities on the fields and courts of play than they did in many other parts of the country, but it was nothing compared to the year-round competition schedules some girls keep nowadays.
Manning is the daughter of a high school basketball, baseball and track and field coach. She spent her childhood watching her dad's practices and games and developing a keen interest in sports and a competitive fire that made her father proud.
But just like Barry, Manning had few female role models to turn to at key ages from 9-13 years old.
"I don't know that the role models were there nationally," Manning said. "My focus more on what was going on at the high school level. Those very prominent female basketball players at the high school level, there were many of them. Denise Long, Cindy Long, Sandy Vancleve, Sharon Hansen, I can almost hear the announcer still say their names probably in 1968 in the high school basketball tournament. At the time as a little girl, that was big time just to even walk in the hallway and see them."
Though Manning loved basketball, she didn't have the jump shot for it. She proved to be much better with a golf club in her hand.
She went to Iowa State in 1978 to play for the women's golf team and ended up spending 20 years there as a player and then a coach. She became a Big Eight Conference coach of the year three times and was inducted into the National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003.
Manning became an athletics administrator in 1999 while still coaching at ISU. She came to Colorado in 2005 where she has served as assistant athletic director for compliance. She also serves as the department's Title IX coordinator.
Manning said one of the thrills of her career was her recent involvement in starting a women's lacrosse program at CU, including hiring a head coach and recruiting three in-state players. Manning said the lacrosse program will eventually provide between 25 and 32 athletics opportunities to female student-athletes at CU, including both scholarship players and walk-ons. She said when those numbers are realized the athletic department will be on the positive side of the proportionality requirements of Title IX, which mandate that a school must have the same percentage of student-athletes as it does female students on campus as a whole.
"CU athletics is a shining example when the director of athletics really surrounds himself with women, many of whom are at the senior leadership level and directors," Manning said. "It's pretty amazing.
"If you look at what was here before, Karen Morrison was really the only woman at the table. That's how far it's come in seven years and it's really rather amazing who is at the table. And you have to be at the table to have any effect at all. You have to be able to see budgets. You have to be at the table and be involved in the strategic planning to really have effect on what is going on, and we are."
'We can't go back'
Kris Livingston is the director of academics for a CU athletic department that just had two of its 16 programs lauded by the NCAA for outstanding performance under the APR system that monitors student-athlete retention and eligibility.
It is the sort of high achievement Livingston was known for as a young athlete growing up in Toledo, Ohio, in the 1970s.
Livingston still remembers the day her parents had a basketball hoop erected in the driveway. She played for hours. Some of earliest childhood memories are of playing tackle football with the boys in the park across the street from her house.
She was always athletically minded, but didn't always have a place to play on organized teams against other girls. Most of that came in the summertime on softball diamonds. She had to wait until her freshman year of high school in 1975, the year Title IX was institutionalized nationally, to be able to test herself against the best girls her age in Toledo.
Livingston started as a freshmen with four seniors. She was named player of the year in her conference. Later in high school she attracted attention from colleges such as Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio). Both offered her the exact same amount of scholarship money.
She eventually chose Miami and became a standout there in the early 1980s. It's where she first crossed paths with Barry. They became friendly through competition as a player and coach and stayed in touch.
All of it seemed like a big step forward over time. She was truly in the first generation of female college athletes to benefit from the new law, but she gradually began to notice inequities.
The men on the football team all walked around campus proudly in their letter jackets. Livingston received a desktop pen set as a reward for participation in her junior year. It still sits on her desk in the Dal Ward Center along with the tin cup she received as a senior.
It wasn't until 2009 when her alma mater moved to correct the slight by inviting generations of former female student athletes back to campus to present them with the letters they earned in their sports in those early years.
"It was huge," Livingston said. "What was neat about it was we all came back together, all different generations. It was awesome to be there, to be recognized, to know that they care, that it does mean something."
But the fact that it came 30 years after her college career ended and just three years ago, is evidence to Livingston that Title IX still has work to do. It can still change minds and effect behaviors and influence decisions.
"I think it would be wrong to eliminate Title IX from the books as a federal law right now because I think if it went away, I think people would make decisions that they aren't making now because it is in the books. I don't know if there is anything necessarily more that we need to do right now. It's just that we can't go back. We can't go back."
Barry later hired Livingston to be the first director of basketball operations at CU in the late 1990s. The position had been created and approved for men's teams a year earlier. Livingston served in that role at CU until Barry retired in 2005 and she moved into administration. She has no doubt her career in athletics probably would have ended at that point without Title IX.
"I think Title IX is what gave me every opportunity that I've had. I think it absolutely gave me the opportunity to play basketball in college and earn a scholarship. It absolutely gave me the contacts that I had to be an assistant coach at Iowa State. It absolutely gave me the contacts that I had to be the director of basketball operations at CU. I met Ceal Barry in 1979. I was a player at Miami. She was a coach at Cincinnati. We had a great rivalry for all those years."
Every day young women on CU rosters walk into the offices of Barry, Manning and Livingston looking for help with academics, scheduling and many other issues. The three trailblazers do everything they can to help the generation in front of them, but they all admit wondering at times whether the female student-athletes of today appreciate the opportunities they have and understand that it didn't used to be this way.
"In a way that's good," Livingston said. "If they've grown up and they've always had the opportunity, that's what the pioneers were fighting for. That's what it was all about."