Ceal Barry never shied from the idea she was coaching her players to compete in life as much as on the basketball floor.
Colorado’s legendary women’s basketball coach, who later moved into athletics administration, was one of the trailblazers in the rise of women’s NCAA sports.
Given her impact, CU arguably could not have made a more perfect selection than inviting her to be the keynote speaker at a brunch during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX later this month.
Barry witnessed a world of change between her arrival in Boulder in 1983 and her retirement in 2020. One of the biggest changes isn’t seen on the playing fields, or even in the way women’s sports, albeit all too slowly, are slowly gaining bigger shares of broadcasting airspace.
During Barry’s 37 years at CU, Title IX didn’t just help the university add further women’s athletic programs. Being involved in NCAA athletics invariably led to greater post-playing career opportunities for those former student-athletes.
After Barry arrived at CU, the university eventually added women’s teams in volleyball, soccer and lacrosse to its athletic roster over the years. Yet perhaps more importantly, women gradually took over prominent roles all across the athletic department.
“I can distinctly remember sitting next to one of my players, and she had had multiple knee injuries and surgeries,” Barry recalled. “She thought she might want to be a physical therapist. I said, ‘Why don’t you be an orthopedic surgeon?’ A light went off in her and she was like, hey, yeah, I can do that. And she did.
“When I first started at CU in the early 80s, there weren’t a lot of women in the athletics department. Now I look and there are women in all facets. You look at Alexis Williams, she oversees the ticket office. And in marketing and promotions and media relations. All those things. I’m not sure we had a female in media relations in 1983. It’s fun to watch.”
Title IX was enacted on June 23, 1972, and collegiate and professional programs have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation throughout 2022. CU takes its turn over the final weekend of September, with Barry scheduled to take the podium as the keynote speaker of the “Embracing Equity Shoulder to Shoulder Brunch” on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 11 a.m.
The deadline for registration for the brunch is this Friday, Sept. 9. Registration includes complimentary tickets to the women’s soccer game against Arizona State on Sept. 23, as well as the volleyball match on Sept. 25, also against Arizona State. Registrants also can purchase discounted tickets to that weekend’s football game against UCLA.
“Watching what ESPN has been doing, a lot of media bringing out a lot of attention and focus to Title IX, it’s been a lot of fun,” Barry said. “In 1972, I was a senior in high school. It’s been fun to watch some of the things that have been on ESPN and remember…it really takes you back to what it really was like prior to Title IX. Not just in athletics, but just culturally for girls. Your options were so much more limited 50 years ago. The fact that there is a celebration and a focus on it has been really tremendous.”