Here are 4 programs that have been key for Fort Collins women's sports since Title IX's passage
Countless organizations have played a role in the growth, development and support of girls and women's athletics in and around Fort Collins since Title IX became law 50 years ago.
But four programs, in particular, stand out because of the influence they have had:
CSU's softball program
Colorado State's softball program has been at the forefront of gender-equity issues at the university for more than 30 years, beginning with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that forced the university to reinstate the program and continuing through a 2018 dispute with the football program over use of the school's Indoor Practice Facility.
Citing budget concerns, school administrators cut the program, along with men’s baseball, in 1992 only to have the U.S. Supreme Court rule it must be reinstated following a lawsuit by players. CSU’s athletic department was already under a microscope for Title IX compliance because of issues that arose during a 1983 US. Department of Education investigation.
The court ruled in 1993 in Roberts v. Colorado State University that the softball program's elimination disproportionately affected athletic opportunities for female athletes at the university.
CSU had promised to increase opportunities for participation and program expansion for female athletes as part of the corrective action required to resolve the 1983 case.
The court found that CSU had, instead, reduced the number of women’s sports programs it offered during that time by dropping women’s gymnastics, field hockey, softball and junior-varsity volleyball, and had only marginally improved what had previously been determined to be an unacceptable discrepancy in the proportion of athletic opportunities available for females versus males relative to the percentage of students of each gender in the overall student population.
The softball program was reinstated in 1994.
25 years later::Gender-equity battle inspires CSU softball players
Players again raised gender-equity concerns in spring 2018 after being kicked out of the school’s Indoor Practice Facility before their in-season practice was completed so that members of then-football coach Mike Bobo’s staff could set up for a spring practice later that day.
CSU’s athletic department has since established new rules for the scheduling of the Indoor Practice Facility to better share its use while giving priority to sports that are in season, athletic director Joe Parker said.
CSU's volleyball program
With All-American players, Top 25 rankings and NCAA Tournament appearances most every year and one of the largest fan bases in college volleyball, CSU's program has become a model for success in women's college athletics.
The Rams have won 20 out of a possible 32 titles in the Mountain West since the conference began play in 1999 and were a national power even before veteran coach Tom Hilbert took the reins in 1997, when Rich Feller left to build a national powerhouse program at California.
With All-Americans like Angela Knopf, Courtney Cox, Soroya Santos, three-time MW Player of the Year Katie Oleksak and two-time conference players of the year Melissa Courtney and Danielle Minch leading the way, the Rams have developed one of the largest fan bases for college volleyball in the nation, averaging 2,190 fans for home matches at Moby Arena over the past 22 seasons.
Only 10 college volleyball programs in the country have appeared in more NCAA Tournaments than CSU, which has played in 31, including a string of 25 in a row from 1995 to 2019. CSU has hosted first- and/or second-round matches 10 times, advanced to the Sweet 16 on 13 occasions and to the Elite Eight seven times.
“What’s really helped Ram volleyball has been the community engagement,” Hilbert said. “Obviously, we’ve had a long-running tradition of success. I also think we have a sport that surprises people when they come and watch it; people don’t expect it to be as athletic and as graceful as it is.”
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Triple Crown Sports
Dave King, founder of Triple Crown Sports, has been a major advocate for women’s sports programs at all levels both personally and professionally.
King and his wife, Annette, launched Triple Crown Sports in 1982 primarily to run slowpitch softball tournaments. The company, which he said now derives 70% of its revenue from women’s sports, now operates dozens of youth camps and tournaments in several sports, showcase events to put female high school athletes in front of college coaches and postseason tournaments for the best women’s college basketball, softball and volleyball teams that don’t earn invitations to the NCAA tournaments in those sports.
King's work to give female athletes the same opportunities as male athletes started while coaching youth baseball in his hometown of Meeker, in northwestern Colorado. Needing more players to fill out a youth baseball all-star team, he put three girls on the team and went on to win a state championship.
“I was doing it before there was a law to help me,” King said. “I imagine all around America there were things like that going on.”
King’s mother, Margaret, competed in the first state high school track championships for girls in Colorado and won five or six titles, he said, and his father, Robert, played a key role in developing the regional and state track meet system that the Colorado High School Activities Association now runs.
Dave and Annette’s son Keri is now the CEO of Triple Crown Sports. The company has 57 employees and produces more than 150 events a year, a spokesperson said.
Fort Collins Soccer Club
The Fort Collins Soccer Club and its competitive Arsenal program is the largest youth sports organization for girls in the region. Dozens of former players have gone on to play in college with a handful moving on to play professionally.
Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell, who have both played matches on the U.S. National Women's Team, each got their start as young girls in the Fort Collins Soccer Club.
More:Former Northern Colorado soccer stars make debuts with U.S. national team
The club, founded in 1978 by Al Minatta, has more than 5,000 participants each year playing in its five divisions – youth recreational, youth competitive, adult men, adult women and adult coed.
Girls teams in the competitive Fort Collins Arsenal program, run by Dave Shaffer, have won at least 14 state championships and two U.S. Youth Soccer regional championships. One of its under-18 teams played for a national youth championship in 2017.
The Fort Collins Soccer Complex the club built and opened in 2001 just north of the Anheuser Busch brewery now has 16 fields that are used regularly for practices and games for the competitive youth programs, while the recreational teams play their games at dozens of parks in and around Fort Collins.
This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Fort Collins programs key to growth of women's sports under Title IX