William Smith College Athletics, 1972 – Present

August 16th, 2019

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

“Title IX” has become a catchphrase for women’s collegiate sports. As detailed in my July blog,  women were interested in sports for over 150 years prior to the passage of Title IX in 1972. Initially, the law had little concern with sports.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had a large loophole. It prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or sex in employment and public accommodation. However, it didn’t apply to schools and colleges. Biased hiring and promotion practices at college and universities led to labor complaints, and ultimately to Congressional hearings.

Title IX legislation read, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In 1974 there was a proposed amendment to exempt revenue-producing college sports from the law. It failed and was replaced with a clause for “reasonable provisions considering the nature of particular sports.” Title IX went into effect in 1975.

Case filled with trophies

A few of William Smith’s national trophies

William Smith had intercollegiate programs prior to 1972. In the 1970-71 seasons, varsity teams included field hockey, tennis, swimming, basketball, volleyball, sailing, and lacrosse. Most of the teams posted winning records. The swimming team had one loss from 1971 to 1973, and a two-time state champion in Christie Hayes ’71.

Funding lagged behind talent. In 1973-74, William Smith had about $5,000 for intercollegiate sports compared to $100,000 for Hobart. Pat Genovese coached field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. There was no team doctor, teams shared warm-up sweats and uniforms, and there were no awards or team jackets. When Title IX was enforced in 1975, the Colleges increased the William Smith sports budget.

Today, William Smith has 11 teams: basketball, cross-country, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, and tennis. Sailing is a co-ed team with Hobart.

Even at the small-college level, successful sports teams are considered a reflection of their school. National championships are the highest achievement. Swimmer Vibeke Hopkinson ’83 was the first William Smith athlete or team to win a national championship. She won individual NCAA titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard backstroke as a senior.

In 1988, soccer was the first team to win a national title. Field hockey followed with national championships in 1992, 1997, and 2000. Soccer won a second title in 2013.

National championships aren’t the only measure of a program. The lacrosse team has appeared in nine Final Fours, playing for the title five times. Since 1997, the rowing team has advanced to the national championship regatta 13 times. Since 1995, William Smith teams have won 54 conference championships.

Here are two links if you’d like to learn more:


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