IX AT 50: WU’s Moore leads first Olympic USA women’s basketball team to silver

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Every Thursday at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game in the last half century — the Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - High school and college basketball opportunities didn’t exist for Billie Jean Moore.

“I had all these doors open, all these paths open if I was a young boy, but I didn’t have those same doors and some paths open if I was a young girl,” Moore recalls.

But, her love for the game opened doors for countless young girls to come.

“To be part of something that you love and something you enjoy doing, and maybe it creates a greater opportunity for someone else, that means a lot to me,” she said.

The Washburn alum’s coaching career began at Cal State Fullerton in 1969 — three years prior to Title IX’s passing.

“We raised money,” she said. “I mean, we washed cars, we sold candy bars. You did everything — ran a concession stand at the men’s game.”

The switch didn’t flip once the ink of President Nixon’s signature dried.

“It wasn’t like all of a sudden there was this influx of money and this influx of support and all this was happening,” she said.

Progress, Moore says, came at the grassroots level.

With the NCAA a “boys room only,” a group of leaders formed the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) — a league by women, for women.

Moore became the first coach in women’s basketball history to lead two different schools to national championships: first with Cal State Fullerton in 1970, then UCLA in 1978.

The latter game drew 9,000 fans.

“I think what that sent was a message across the country that look, people will support women’s basketball when you play and you play at a very high level,” Moore said.

Her coaching prowess led her to the helm of the United States team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Montreal marked the first year the Olympics included women’s basketball.

“I told the young ladies that were on the team that they’re going to be a lot of Olympians after them, but there will only ever be one first,” she said. “They took care of business probably beyond what anyone else, what most people, most experts thought they could do.”

USA won the silver medal in that inaugural year.

“What those 12 young ladies did, it was remarkable, she said. “Every once in a while you get things that are kind of springboards to help the sport grow. I think that was one of the springboards that really helped women’s basketball take another notch. When you do those kinds of things, you can dream them. Now as a young female basketball player, I could dream of being an Olympian.”

Moore was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

She finished her college coaching career with a 436-196 record, becoming just the eighth coach in women’s basketball history to reach 400 wins.

“I’ve always said basketball is a simple game that coaches have tried to make difficult,” Moore said. “So just keep the game simple and give everyone an opportunity that wants to play, give them an opportunity to play.”

By breaking down barriers, Moore cleared the path for the next generation of women.

“If you were a part of successfully helping grow something where it opened more doors, then yeah. Then it was worth all the time and energy and effort you put into it,” she said.

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