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UCLA

Game Change: Ann Meyers Drysdale

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By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Oct 1, 2012 8:00 AM


It was only one sentence, but it changed everything in college sports.

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Called Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, it said: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

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Meyers Drysdale, the only woman to ever earn a tryout in the NBA, drives on an opponent.

Title IX ignited an explosion of interest in and support of women’s sports that still reverberate today. And no one is more representative of that historic moment than Bruin basketball legend Ann Meyers Drysdale ’79. Meyers Drysdale had already made history as the first woman to receive a full-ride athletic scholarship to UCLA in 1974. Still, even greater glory was within reach in 1978 as the Bruin women’s basketball team sought to play in the first-ever contemporary-style Final Four. But it almost didn’t happen.

“We lose three out of [five] games [back East] and I’m devastated,” she recalls. “I’m crying and don’t think that we’re going to be in a situation that is going to put us in the finals.”

But the team battled back to play for the title on March 25, 1978. Before a record crowd of 9,351 in Pauley Pavilion, UCLA defeated Maryland, 90-74, for the Bruin women’s first — and so far, only — national basketball championship.

“[My brother] Mark carried me over to the hoop so I could take down the net to the beautiful sounds of UCLA fans cheering,” Meyers Drysdale writes in her recently published memoir, You Let Some Girl Beat You? “It’s one of those special times I think back on and find it impossible not to smile.”

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Celebrating the 1978 AIAW National Championship with fellow UCLA Hall of Famer Anita Ortega ’82.

Her superior athleticism (she played seven sports in high school) and good genes (brother David Meyers ’80 won two championships under John Wooden) made stardom a slam dunk for Meyers Drysdale. She recorded the only quadruple-double in UCLA history — 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals — and also was on the volleyball and track and field teams. She ended her college career as the first four-time All-American in collegiate women’s basketball and winner of the Broderick Cup as the nation’s top female collegiate athlete. Soon after, she was drafted first in the then-new Women’s Professional Basketball League.

Today, the 1988 UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame inductee is an award-winning broadcaster, NBA /WNBA team executive and mother of three children with late Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale, including daughter Drew, a high jumper on the UCLA women’s track and field team. This year, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association dubbed its annual honor the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year Award.

Ironically, considering her impact, the young student-athlete never intended to leave a legacy. “When you’re an athlete and going through what you’re doing, you don’t look at history, you don’t [think], ‘Oh, I’m doing this for somebody else, and I’m going to get recognized for this,’ ” she says. “I was just doing what I love to do.”

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