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Iowa, and the nation, lost a tireless and influential advocate for equality in athletics when Christine Grant died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 85.
She became the University of Iowa’s first women’s athletic director in 1973, a post she held until 2000. Iowa women’s teams won 27 Big Ten titles during her tenure. But her most lasting legacy is her work fighting for a level playing field for women’s sports and her efforts to shape the implantation of Title IX, a provision of federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in sports and academics.
“Christine was a true trailblazer, an icon in women’s sports. If there was a Mount Rushmore of impactful female pioneers in sports, Christine would be on it,” wrote former Hawkeye women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer in a letter first published by the Des Moines Register.
It was the hiring of Stringer in 1983, bringing a Black coach from the east coast to predominantly white Iowa, that proved to be one of Grant’s masterstrokes. Stringer made the once losing program into a national power, leading the team to the Final Four in 1993 and compiling an impressive record, especially at home in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In 1985, a home game against Ohio State drew more than 22,000 fans.
As The Gazette’s Jeff Linder reported last weekend, Grant received a reprimand from the Iowa City Fire Department for breaking fire codes. He framed it and displayed it in her office.
Grant served on the 1978 Title IX task force, testified before Congress and was considered a leading national expert on equity in sports. She was inducted into the National Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and won the NCAA’s Gerald R. Ford Award, which “honors individuals who have provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis over the course of his or her career.” These are just a few of many honors Grant received.
"She gave the opportunity to thousands upon thousands of girls to enjoy and benefit from participating in athletics," current Hawkeye women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said in a statement. "Without Dr. Grant's commitment and efforts to gender equality, girls and women would not be able to experience the benefit of sport the way we know it today."
But gender inequalities continue. Just last year, a dramatic disparity between the quality of facilities accessible to participants in the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments sparked outrage. It turns out men’s participants were given more accurate PCR tests for COVID while women received a less accurate rapid test.
We think the best way to honor Grant is to continue her fight.
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