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Winter 1998
In a League of Their Own
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"Women athletes today owe everything to Judee Holland," says Sondheimer. "Without her, UCLA wouldn't be recognized as it is. She was so ahead of her time that it gave UCLA an edge."

Under NCAA auspices, UCLA women kept racking up impressive results, with athletes such as basketball's Denise Curry '82, softball's Dot Richardson '84, volleyball's Liz Masakayan and gymnastics' Sharon Shapiro '84 drawing national attention. It wasn't just campus sports that boosted UCLA's women, however. The Olympic Games have turned the spotlight on a number of Bruin women over the past 25 years, going back to Meyers' participation on the first women's Olympic basketball team in 1976. In 1984, Bruin women won an astounding 12 medals in the L.A. Games. In fact, the '84 Games were like campus sports, with an Olympic village sprouting from the intramural field and gymnastics -- dominated by Bruin men -- taking place in Pauley. Bruin women speedsters showed they had no equal, beginning a streak of 100-meter sprint champions (Ashford in '84, Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988 and Gail Devers in 1992 and 1996) that still hasn't been broken.

With all its upside, though, the 1980s were also a time when Title IX was under threat. The Reagan Administration weakened enforcement of the law, and federal court cases narrowed its impact (until 1988, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act to put Title IX back on track). "There was a backlash in the '80s," says Holland, "but it wasn't overt. You just went into work with white knuckles every day." UCLA's basketball program also suffered a blow in 1984, just after a remarkable victory over highly ranked Old Dominion, when star players Char Jones and Michelle McCoy were dismissed mid-season for academic problems. For Holland, it's still a bitter memory, especially since no male athletes had ever been kicked out in similar circumstances. "I shut my office door and cried for an hour after it happened," she says. "Sure I felt bad for the program, but I really felt bad for those kids." Since both athletes were African Americans from inner-city backgrounds, their dismissal put a damper on UCLA's recruitment of inner-city players for years to come -- even though UCLA had been at the forefront of bringing opportunities to African-American student-athletes.

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