I saw this line in a column today: “Was it worth stirring so much controversy over a scholarship release for a women’s basketball player?”
This was, of course, in regard to the controversy that’s turned into a full-fledged embarrassment for Kansas State about not releasing Leti Romero. I know the author, who certainly isn’t a bad guy, just someone who – I think even he would admit this – doesn’t care that much for writing about women’s sports.
I wrote a story for ESPNW this week on women’s basketball player Leticia Romero, who has been denied a release from Kansas State. Several readers have asked about the details of the appeals process. In an interview in late April, Romero explained that to me.
Coach Deb Patterson’s firing was announced on March 9, and new coach Jeff Mittie was hired March 18. Romero participated in some team workouts with Mittie, but said she then realized she didn’t want to stay at Kansas State.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like him,” Romero said. “But I felt like all my teammates were happy and adjusting to the change, and I wasn’t. I felt like I wasn’t being honest with the team, with coach Mittie, with myself.”
Sept. 20, 2013, is the 40th anniversary of tennis’ “Battle of the Sexes.” I was 8 years old then, and recall what a big deal it was to me as a third-grader. Here is a story I wrote for the Kansas City Star in 1999 about the match. BJK’s message in ’99 was the same as in ’73, and it’s just as relevant today.
Sept. 26, 1999
The Legend of Billie Jean
Here’s what you missed on TV on that pre-VCR Thursday night 26 years ago last week.
Sissy Spacek guest-starred as a troubled young pregnant girl on CBS’ “The Waltons.” Buddy Hackett and Ruth Buzzi yucked it up on NBC’s “The Flip Wilson Show.”
Meanwhile, approximately 50 million Americans tuned into ABC at 7 p.m. Central time for what became a landmark event in a watershed decade for female athletes in the United States.
In the “Battle of the Sexes,” the No. 2-ranked woman in tennis, Billie Jean King, beat former Wimbledon men’s champion Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. It was played in front of the largest crowd ever to see a tennis match, 30,472 at Houston’s Astrodome, on Sept. 20, 1973.
Folks, here is an e-mail I received today from former Missouri State women’s basketball coach Cheryl Burnett about a player who was on her 2001 NCAA Final Four team. The e-mail also includes a story on Kinga Kiss-Johnson, who is trying to compete in the World Para Archery Championship in Bangkok in November. I did not write this story; I am including it for background.
Note: As we mark the 40th anniversary of Title IX, this is an ESPN.com column I wrote in December 2002, honoring the late Patsy Mink. She had recently passed away then. One of the “mothers” of Title IX, Mink is among the people we should always remember to thank when we talk about what Title IX has done for us.
Here’s Patsy Takemoto, a teen-aged girl. She’s extremely bright and ambitious. She’s small of physical stature. She plays some high school basketball … well, the half-court game that they let the girls play.
She lives in a beautiful place, Hawaii, where her grandparents had come to from Japan in the 1800s to be sugar-plantation workers. But it’s not been a pretty world these last few, long years. She’s been an eyewitness to the carnage at Pearl Harbor, which happened the day after she turned 14. War has raged over the globe, and people like her _ Japanese-Americans _ have been treated like the enemy by both sides in the conflict.
Her patriotism and her optimism, though, are undaunted. Soon, it will be time for the world, shattered in so many places, to begin rebuilding. She’s tiny but strong. It’s 1944. She’s graduated from high school and is eager to begin the next stage of education and step into adult life as a contributor, a healer.
She meets segregation, belittlement, contempt. For her race, for her gender. It’s relentless, mostly unchallenged, thoroughly institutionalized. Yet she still thinks anything is possible.
Asjha Jones was added as the 12th and final member of the U.S. women’s basketball team for the London Olympics on Monday. I’m going to take a wild guess and say this didn’t go over that well in certain pockets of the women’s hoops fan base.
Jones, of the Connecticut Sun, became the sixth UConn grad added to roster, meaning half the team are former Huskies. With Geno Auriemma coaching, the fact that he didn’t actually pick the team – it was done by a selection committee - will get lost, ignored, or just flat-out not believed by those who are certain that it was his nefarious plot to stack the team with his former players.
Note: Today, April 18, coach Pat Summitt moved into a new role at Tennessee – as head coach emeritus. She finishes with 1,098 victories, 18 trips to the NCAA Final Four, and eight NCAA titles. Here is a story I wrote for ESPN.com in 2008 after Summitt’s last championship game.
TAMPA, Fla. _ Remember the old “Schoolhouse Rock” tune?
“Figure eight as double four,
Figure four as half of eight,
If you skate, you would be great
If you could make a figure eight.”
Tennessee’s Pat Summitt has made a figure eight now as a basketball coach, but she’s never “skated” a day in her life. That got reinforced from her earliest consciousness, by parents she called “the hardest-working people I’ve ever known.”
The apple, as they say, didn’t fall far from the tree. Summitt – whose program now has eight NCAA titles after its 64-48 victory over Stanford on Tuesday _ is a long way from the farm girl who wondered if she’d ever measure up to her father’s unyielding standards.
As the Big 12 celebrates a second consecutive national championship in women’s basketball this week with Baylor following Texas A&M last year _ plus Oklahoma State overcoming a huge tragedy to win the WNIT _it’s a good time to reflect on the league before it undergoes another change next season.
Let’s go back to the very beginning. The women’s hoops coaches of the newly formed Big 12 met with the media at a Kansas City-area hotel in October 1996. Some of them had been coaching against one another for many years at that point. Some were just getting to know the others.
“It’s kind of like in the ‘Brady Bunch,’ where the two families merge,” then-Nebraska coach Angela Beck said that day. “Like, ‘Here are your new brothers and sisters; you should love each other, even though you don’t know each other.”
DENVER _ Coaches taking a new position often will use the phrase “dream job,” prompting eye rolls from a few of us more cynical media folks. Because of all the times we’ve seen coaches leave one “dream job” for another “dream job.”
With Karen Aston and Texas, though, there is no doubt that today really is a dream come true: She is, after more than two decades in the profession, the head coach at the place she wants to be more than anywhere.
Aston was officially announced as boss of the Longhorns on Tuesday, the same day that another Big 12 school, Baylor, is playing for a national championship here in the Mile High City.
It’s not just that UConn seems to have many of its games won before tipoff. It’s that the Huskies seem to have the “W” just as soon as the schedule is printed.
Opposing coaches watch film, do the scout, and run their players through practice before facing UConn, just like going against any other team. Except it’s not. You wonder how many coaches – for instance, one of a program that had lost its last 27 in a row to the Huskies – could truly keep 100 percent faith that this preparation really mattered.
Yet that’s what being a coach is: Believing you always prepare to win because that possibility always exists. Even if you are about the only one on Earth who believes it.
Now look at this score: St. John’s 57, No. 2 UConn 56. Coach Kim Barnes Arico and her Red Storm players may wake up Sunday and initially think they just had a very pleasant dream, kind of like those where you possess an inexplicable but astonishing ability to fly.