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Fighting Illini Announce Celebration Plans for 50th Anniversary of Title IX


CHAMPAIGN, lll. – In 2022, the University of Illinois is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the historic federal legislation that created a legal expectation for women and girls to enjoy equal opportunities in sports. Title IX prompted rapid expansion in women’s sports, including on the campus of the University of Illinois, and paved the way for the millions of girls and women who compete in sports today.

The impact of Title IX on women’s sports has been significant. The law opened doors and removed barriers for girls and women to participate in sports programs at all levels. For many decades at schools and universities across the nation, girls and women were limited to intramural, sports clubs and park districts when participating in sports. In 1971, before Title IX passed, only one percent of collegiate athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs. At the high school level, male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1.

That began to change on June 23, 1972, when Title IX was signed into law, establishing equal access for everyone, men and women included, to any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance, including sports. In the five decades since Title IX’s passage, female participation at the high school level has grown by 1,057 percent and by 614 percent at the college level.

The University of Illinois now sponsors 11 women’s varsity sports teams comprised of more than 220 female student-athletes on varsity rosters for the 2022-23 school year. The first year of competition for women’s varsity sports on the UI campus came during the 1974-75 season with volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, golf and tennis. Cross country started in the fall of 1978, soccer began in 1997 and softball started in the spring of 2001. Twenty-five women have been inducted into the UI Athletics Hall of Fame.

“With the signing of this historic law 50 years ago, Title IX opened the door for dramatic growth in sports opportunities for girls and women,” said UI Director of Athletics Josh Whitman. “Our work in providing equitable opportunities is far from over, but the progress witnessed across the country over the last 50 years is undeniable and worth celebrating. Here at Illinois, we take great pride in offering a first-class experience to the women who wear the Orange and Blue, and over the course of this year, we plan to honor and recognize the people who helped us get where we are today. As the father of a young girl, I am grateful for the many memories and life lessons that await her because of tireless work from the trailblazers we intend to honor. We hope that our extended Title IX celebration will raise understanding and awareness of, and appreciation for, the challenges overcome during the last five decades to give women competing today equal access and treatment in the world of sports.”

Dr. Karol Kahrs is credited with leading UI efforts to incorporate women’s athletics into the varsity sports program. Kahrs was instrumental in leading the way for women’s sports to be integrated into the Big Ten Conference for the 1981-82 school year. The first Big Ten championship event for women’s athletics was held in the fall of 1981 with a field hockey tournament. Illinois has won 18 Big Ten women’s team titles since that first year in the conference.  A long-time national and conference leader in the women’s athletics movement, Kahrs was an inaugural member of the UI Athletics Hall of Fame. She has also been recognized with inclusion in the NACWAA Hall of Fame and NACDA Hall of Fame. Kahrs retired from the UI in 2000 after 36 years of service and passed away in 2020.

Special Title IX Logo

A special Title IX logo was created to accompany all of Illinois’s events and celebrations. The logo incorporates a subtle back-to-back KK as the X to recognize the significance made by trailblazer Dr. Kahrs on the UI campus.

Top 50 Illini Women’s Sports Moments and People of Influence

Beginning today, recognition of the Top 50 Moments and People of Influence for Fighting Illini Women’s Athletics will be rolled out over the coming months through the Illini social media outlets and at

Karol Kahrs Women’s Excellence Fund Campaign|

A campaign fund named after Illinois athletics pioneer Karol Kahrs begins Thursday, June 23, with a goal of raising $100,000 to support women’s sports and initiatives for the DIA.

Podcasts Celebrating Fighting Illini Women’s Athletics

Podcasts featuring many of the wonderful stories from over the past 50 years will be posted on in June and July.

Illini Women’s Summit / Reunion

The Title IX 50th Anniversary Celebration will culminate on the UI campus with a Women’s Summit/Reunion entitled “How it Started … How it’s Going” on September 9. University of Illinois graduate and former member of the UI cheer squad, Sheila Johnson, is the keynote speaker at the summit. Taylor Rooks, also a UI graduate and nationally known sports journalist and broadcaster, will serve as emcee for the summit. The summit will include Panel discussion regarding the state of women in sport. The summit will be held in conjunction with Varsity I Weekend, with events held throughout the football weekend that are dedicated to the celebration of Title IX. All former Fighting Illini women student-athletes will be invited to participate.

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