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Harvard, Ivies Stick With AIAW

Sports Feature

Last spring the brass at 60 Boylston faced a major decision.

Should Harvard's women's athletic programs remain committed to the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the first--and, until recently, the only--organization to recognize and support collegiate female athletes? Or should they transfer their loyalties to the NCAA, which after 75 years of governing men's athletics decided in January to offer national championships for women as well?

When this academic year began and for women as well?

When this academic year began and athletic departments around the country were required to declare which of their teams would attend AIAW nationals if invited and which would choose NCAAs, Harvard and the other seven Ivy League schools committee their women's programs exclusively to the AIAW.

"We thought that we should stick with the AIAW until we can see what path the NCAA is following," Pat Miller, Harvard's assistant director of athletics, explains. "And personally, I question the sincerity of the NCAA in its commitment to women's athletics."

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Miller points to the fact that the NCAA still has a case in federal court challenging Title IX, which could help female athletes receive funding equal to that of their male counterparts.

"How can I feel good about the possibility of the NCAA controlling women's athletics if that is the posture of the organization?" Miller asks.

The NCAA's significantly larger bankroll has erased any similar doubts of most athletic officials outside the Ivy League. Unlike the AIAW, the NCAA pays the travelling expenses of any team or individual athlete that attends a championship event--a fact that has prompted a considerable number of schools to commit at least some of their teams to the NCAA.

Springfield College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Boston University have all opted to send certain women's squads to NCAA championships should they receive bids.

"It's strictly a financial question," John Simpson, B.U.'s athletic director says. "If I had the money, I wouldn't care one way or another which organization we went with."

Springfield and UMass athletic officials share Simpson's view of the situation. In 1979, Springfield's Eastern champion field hockey team could not accept their position in the AIAW Division II national tournament because the college was unable to finance their trip.

And Robert O'Connell, the assistant athletic director at UMass, estimates that his department spent nearly $25,000 in travelling expenses last year--a figure that NCAA affiliation should reduce by approximately $15,000.

Still, for most people, the issue involves far more than just financial considerations. Like Miller, many AIAW proponents and officials question the NCAA's motives and resent its interference in women's athletics.

"This move is their attempt to achieve control of women's athletics and to put us out of business," Marilee Baker, director of athletics at Princeton and president-elect of the AIAW, says. "Two years ago, we proposed a merger, but they refused to even discuss it."

Miller agrees with Baker, adding, "I think that for a long time they wanted to believe that women's athletic programs and their demands would just go away, and when that didn't happen, they decided that they wanted to have complete control over everything."

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