IX AT 50: Maggie Mahood leaves lasting legacy on KU basketball

“We cannot forget to keep fighting. We need to make sure that the history stays alive, what people did and sacrificed to get to this point. We need to keep that history alive.”
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:42 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. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night 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 for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

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

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Basketball took Maggie Mahood from small-town Nebraska, to around the world.

“Been to Hawaii because of basketball three times, been to Alaska, been to every state with the exception I think of Maine,” she said. “Been to Puerto Rico. When I was at Nebraska, I took the Big Eight All-Star team to Czechoslovakia six months after the fall of the communist regime. And that was a cool experience.”

Her secret to success?

“Seeking out strong female role models is what helped me along that path,” Mahood said.

And she’d become just that.

The former Huskers’ graduate assistant had gotten out of the coaching business when she got a call in 1995.

KU head coach Marian Washington needed an assistant, and Maggie was the woman for the job.

“An opportunity to work with Coach Washington? Sure. Yeah. Any day. Any day,” Mahood said. “That’s ironic because I had people tell me, ‘I’d work for her for free.’”

Women’s basketball was in the spotlight in the late ‘90s. The U.S. won a gold medal at the ‘96 Olympics. The first-ever WNBA Draft followed the next year.

All eyes were on KU: one of the top Division I programs in the nation.

“We were like top 10 top, top 15 in the country,” Mahood said. “There was a tremendous amount of pressure because we had people around us all the time who knew what it was to drive a station wagon to Minnesota to play game, or hold a bake sale to pay for gas money to get to that game. I think we had a great appreciation for what our foremothers had gone through.”

The Jayhawks won the last Big Eight championship Mahood’s second year, and the first Big 12 championship the following.

They reached two Sweet Sixteens and five NCAA Tournaments in her first five seasons.

But no amount of success leveled the playing field between the way the women’s program was treated compared to the men’s program.

“We didn’t have the same kind of equipment that they had. We flew commercial. We traveled in vans as opposed to charter buses, things that just were convenience issues for us,” Mahood said.

In her final three of 13 years with the program, those improvements finally came.

“We were on charter flights. We were on charter buses. We had shoe contracts that included the entire athletic department, as opposed to the men having, you know, 27 pairs of shoes a year and we had two,” she said.

Along the way, Mahood says the staff focused on what they did have: the opportunity to impact young women.

“I think the most important part is the difference that we helped to make in people’s lives,” she said. “Young girls who came to camp, who now are CEOs or administrators of some type. I think that those are the things that you look back on when you’re my age and say, ‘I hope I had a little part of that.’”

Next week marks 50 years of Title IX: a law that gave women in sports legal backing in their fight for equality — and women like Maggie an opportunity to change lives.

“There’s still work to be done, but how far we’ve come is amazing,” she said. “We cannot forget to keep fighting. We need to make sure that the history stays alive, what people did and sacrificed to get to this point. We need to keep that history alive.”

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