Former UCSD athletic director speaks out

    Former UCSD Athletic Director Judy Sweet was a keynote speaker and Title IX panelist at the annual Association for Women in Sports Media Convention in downtown San Diego on May 28. Sweet, the NCAA vice president for championship and education services, served as UCSD’s athletic director from 1975 to 1999, and became one of the first women to lead a combined men’s and women’s athletic program.

    “I loved being at UCSD,” Sweet said. “It has provided me a wonderful opportunity to work at a strong academic institution that recognized that physical activity was a good complement to educational experiences that male and female students had.”

    As one of the first female leaders in the male-dominated environment of sports administration, Sweet faced her share of challenges.

    “In the early years of my tenure as director of athletics, there were individuals that were questioning whether it was appropriate to have a female in a nontraditional role,” Sweet said. “I could understand what the needs were for a men’s program and my response to that was to show that I did understand and I was committed to providing positive experiences for both males and females.”

    During Sweet’s tenure, UCSD won the 1998 Sears Director’s Cup Award as the most successful Division III athletics program in the country. Since 1983, Sweet has served on more than 20 NCAA committees and became the first and — because of governance restructuring in 1997 — only female to serve as NCAA president in 1991. She was also the first female to serve as NCAA secretary-treasurer from 1989 through 1991.

    In 2000, a year after Sweet concluded her position as athletic director, UCSD moved to Division II under current Athletic Director Earl W. Edwards, and became the only institution in the division to not give athletic scholarships. Despite the lack of scholarships, the Tritons remained competitive, earning back-to-back national championships in women’s soccer in 2000 and 2001.

    However, the NCAA Division II recently changed its rules, requiring all member programs to offer a minimum of $250,000 in athletic grants. In response, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson submitted an athletic scholarship proposal that would offer Triton athletes $300,000 in grants. But his proposal was met with concern from faculty members and campus organizations, including the Council of Provosts and the Graduate Student Association.

    “Whatever the direction the university goes, there needs to be a commitment to do things right,” Sweet said when asked about scholarships at UCSD. “And whether scholarships are a part of that or not, UCSD has demonstrated that it can be competitive because of the quality of student athletes it has attracted to UCSD.”

    At the AWSM Convention, Sweet served as a panelist focusing on the state of Title IX in intercollegiate athletics. Title IX is a federal statute passed in 1972 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program receiving federal funding. Although UCSD does not provide athletic scholarships, the university must provide equal opportunities for men and women to participate in sports and enforce equal treatment in 11 areas, including equipment, scheduling of practices, coaching and recruitment. While at UCSD, Sweet ensured the university was in compliance with Title IX.

    “There’s actually what’s called a laundry list of 11 different components that an institution should be measured on to ensure compliance with Title IX,” Sweet said. “I believe that right from the start, we had a commitment to ensure that our male and female student athletes were treated equitably.”

    However, not everyone at UCSD initially supported Title IX.

    “There was some resistance from some of the traditional male programs that had been accustomed to having more than the lion’s share of resources, so when we had to share those resources, they weren’t enthusiastic about it,” Sweet said.

    Edwards, who followed Sweet as director, continued enforcing UCSD’s compliance with Title IX, acknowledging the positive effects of female participation in sports.

    “At UCSD, we have always firmly believed in the philosophy of Title IX and conducted our program accordingly,” Edwards stated on the UCSD Athletics Web site. “Personally, I would not amend the Title IX statute and I don’t agree with those who contend Title IX has negatively affected men’s sports. Some administrators have cut men’s sports to comply with Title IX, but there are other ways to comply without reducing men’s opportunities.”

    [Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part piece. In Thursday’s issue, read Sweet’s views on the changes and controversies surrounding Title IX and how it affects UCSD.]

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