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.

 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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