UW Health Sports Medicine 
40th anniversary of Wisconsin Women's Athletics

40 Memorable Moments in the 40th Anniversary of UW Women’s Athletics History, 1974-2015

Women’s sports participation at the University of Wisconsin began in 1895 when Coach Andrew O’Dea consented to coach a women’s boating crew. Women’s basketball was introduced at Wisconsin in 1897. Badger yearbooks from before 1920 show women’s teams receiving honor letters and wearing athletic sweaters, but these were interclass teams and not intercollegiate teams.

It wasn’t until 1970 that the recreational play days of the past 70 years gave way to a club sport program that allowed for more elite competitive opportunities for women athletes. Kit Saunders was appointed the first Women’s Club Sports Coordinator with a budget of $2,000 in 1971–72.

After a campus study requested by Chancellor Edwin Young, the Athletic Board approved the inclusion of the 12-sport women’s program on March 1, 1974. The sports, Director of Women’s Athletics Dr. Kit Saunders, and a budget of $118,000 officially moved into Camp Randall Stadium on July 1, 1974.

In the early years, no scholarships were offered female athletes. Players often had to buy their own uniforms or share with other sports (Basketball, volleyball and track all shared the same uniforms).

The NCAA had no interest in sponsoring women’s athletics so national championships were organized by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). The Big Ten Conference also did not officially sponsor women’s athletics, although unofficial championships were held in each sport until 1981-82.

Partial scholarships were first provided to the UW women’s basketball team in 1976. By 1977–78, there were 62 total scholarships available with basketball, volleyball, track and swimming each receiving eight.

In 1981-82, the NCAA and Big Ten Conference officially recognized women’s athletics and sanctioned national and conference championships.

For the 10th anniversary of women’s athletics in 1984, the budget for women’s athletics had grown to $1 million. In 1994, that figure was up to $3.5 million. In 2004, the women’s sports program at the UW has a budget of $8,863,628 million including 455 women’s team participants and scholarship equivalencies of 120.34 (197 student-athletes).

On the 40th anniversary of UW women’s athletics, all 12 women’s sports are fully-funded with the full NCAA complement of scholarships and coaches. In 2013-14, the women’s sports program at the UW has a budget of $8.8 million including 520 women’s team participants and scholarship equivalencies of 132.68 awarded to 191 female student-athletes.

Support services include full-time academic advisors, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, student-athlete development counselors, and athletic communications staff.

The following chronology will take a look back and the teams and individuals who contributed to this 40-year history of UW Women’s Athletics.

 16 - Dec. 16

11/24/1991: Soccer – The Badgers advanced to the final game of the 1991 NCAA Tournament, but lost 3-1 to perennial champion North Carolina. Heather Taggart is the only soccer player to earn player of the year honors. She was the adidas Goalkeeper of the Year in 1991. She also was named an NCAA post graduate scholarship winner.

 15 - Dec. 9

1990: Track – Suzy Favor finished her illustrious running career as the winningest woman in NCAA history with nine NCAA titles and won the 1990 Honda-Broderick Cup as the nation’s top collegiate woman athlete. She also earned 23 Big Ten titles.

 14 - Dec. 2

1990: Volleyball – The Badgers, led by then-head coach Steve Lowe, won their first Big Ten Conference title in 1990 with a 16-2 league mark. The UW finished the year with a trip to the regional semi-finals and a 29-8 overall record. Lisa Boyd was the first woman athlete to be named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year in 1990.

 13 - Nov. 25

1986: Rowing – second varsity 8 national title and the UW men’s varsity 8 matched it that year; the women’s junior varsity eight (second varsity) also won at nationals

 12 - Nov. 18

1984 and 1985: Cross Country – back-to-back national titles. Cathy Branta was UW's first ever NCAA women's cross country national champion in 1985.

 11 - Nov. 11

August, 1984: Rowing – Carie Graves became the first gold medal winner for Wisconsin. The native of Spring Green, Wis., was a two-year letterwinner for UW in women's crew (1974-76). She represented the U.S. in Olympic competition in 1976, 1980 and 1984. Graves, in the open eight, won a gold medal in 1984 and a bronze medal in the eights in 1976.

 10 - Nov. 4

March, 1983: Badminton – national title

 9 - Oct. 28

March, 1982: Basketball – Wisconsin won the Midwest AIAW Regional tournament (MAIAW) to advance to the national championship. UW won its first game, 60-59, over Colorado to enter the Elite Eight before losing to host and No. 6 Texas, 61-73.

 8 - Oct. 21

9/16/1981: Soccer – The women’s soccer team defeated Beloit College 18-0 to record the most goals scored by a team in a single game and the biggest margin of victory. The win also marked the Badgers’ first varsity win as a program.

 7 - Oct. 14

1981: Soccer – Anticipating the increased interest in the sport of soccer, the Athletic Board added the sport in 1981 and dropped field hockey. That inaugural year, the Badger women's soccer team placed 12th at the AIAW National Championship in 1981. Former field hockey player, Karen Lunda, became Wisconsin women's soccer first ever all-American 1981 as a second-team selection. Lunda tallied 62 points (22 goals, 18 assists) during the 1981 campaign.

 6 - Oct. 7

1974-76: Track – Gilda Hudson Winfield became the first woman African American scholarship athlete and Big Ten Champion by winning the 1976 Big Ten Conference 100-yard race.

 5 - Sept. 30

June, 1975: Rowing – first national championship in women’s athletics won by the varsity 8

 4 - Sept. 23

May, 1975: Track – Cindy Bremser becomes the first women’s track All-American at Wisconsin. She came out for the track team in 1975, the first season of competition, to lose weight. The senior nursing student had never run competitively. Cindy competed in the 1975 AIAW National Championship placing third in the mile to earn all-America recognition. She stayed with running after graduation, and became Wisconsin’s first track Olympian, placing fourth in the 3000 meters in the the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Cindy earned a spot on every U.S. National team from 1975 to 1988, and ranked among the world’s best in both the 1500 and 3000 meters.

 3 - Sept. 16

March, 1975: Diving – Peggy Anderson placed second in the AIAW 1-meter diving competition and earned All-American honors. She was 8th in the 3-meter. In 1974 she was also second in the 1-meter.

 2 - Sept. 9

1/11/1975: Basketball – The first varsity women’s basketball home game is played, a 45-38 win over UW-Green Bay. The team went 11-7, 6-2 at home, in its first year of intercollegiate competition under coach Marilyn Harris.

 1 - Sept. 2

1970: Diving – Although women’s athletics was not yet officially recognized as a varsity program by the university, there were women who competed in the national Division of Girls and Women in Sport championships. D’Lynn Damron was a member of the UW diving team and won the 1 and 3-meter events at the 1970 DGWS national meet. She also won the 1-meter event in 1973.

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