Notre Dame to honor pioneers of Irish women’s athletics

Author: Dennis Brown

Monogram (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the University of Notre Dame, its Athletics Department and the Notre Dame Monogram Club will celebrate the passionate group of women who paved the way for the success of the University’s current women’s varsity programs by awarding more than 250 honorary monograms.

Given that their contributions represent the product of a true pioneering effort, the honorees, including both the founders of the Women’s Athletic Association and the women who competed for Notre Dame during the first five years of coeducation (1972-77), will receive honorary monograms in a ceremony this fall.

“The women’s athletics programs at Notre Dame have enjoyed remarkable success over the years, but none of that would have been possible without the commitment, dedication and passion of the women who blazed the trail 50 years ago,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “We are indebted to their pioneering efforts and are pleased to welcome them into the ranks of the Monogram Club.”

On June 23, 1972, the Education Amendments of 1972 were enacted. Title IX of the amendments prohibited sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Later that year, Notre Dame enrolled its first class of undergraduate women.

While athletics was not specifically mentioned in Title IX, the statute was soon applied to collegiate sports programs and, over the past half-century, played the primary role in opening up opportunities for women in athletics.

Beginning in 1972, a group of passionate female students formed the Women’s Athletic Association, and over the course of the next five years, this organization provided leadership to the many students who were interested in developing varsity teams. The association created a path to that status through the organization and promotion of interest groups, club teams and varsity programs.

“Many women who enrolled at Notre Dame during those first five years had opportunities to use their athletic talents at other schools,” Jack Swarbrick, vice president and the James E. Rohr Director of Athletics, said. “Instead, they chose to come to Notre Dame and build a rich coeducational environment that would ensure equitable opportunities for future students. Laying a strong foundation would be their measure of success, and their efforts cannot be overstated. Most importantly, they inspired others to follow their example, both in how to compete and how to build for the future.”

Kate Markgraf, Monogram Club president, decorated national and international soccer player and current general manager of the U.S. Women’s National team, added: “I am proud that we are recognizing this group for their sacrifices, and the contributions that live on today. Using ingenuity and their personal resources, they figured out a way to train, compete and navigate programs toward varsity status. I am among thousands of Notre Dame female student-athletes who benefited from their vision, drive and determination all those years ago.”

Notre Dame currently fields 26 varsity athletics programs, half of which are for women, beginning in 1976 with tennis and adding through the years fencing, field hockey, basketball, volleyball, swimming and diving, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, indoor and outdoor track and field, lacrosse and rowing. Irish women have won 14 national championships in fencing, soccer and basketball, as well as many individual national championships.

The University will publish a list of all honorees, and invite them back to campus for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football weekend Oct. 21-23. There will be a special recognition ceremony, and the group will be recognized during the Notre Dame football game.