On Wednesday, Executive Producer Brenda VanLengen took a pause before walking into Horton Field House at Illinois State University. This storied venue hosted the first AIAW Championship in 1972 and as such, served as a sort of home base for much of the forward-thinking that brought women’s basketball to the forefront.
Jill Hutchison was coach of the Redbirds at that time and Tournament Director for the AIAW. In the second role, she faced the challenge of creating a framework for a national competition in the first year of Title IX. There had been other championships, but this was the first with a formalized qualification process. She met us at Horton Field House to reflect on that first tournament and the direction of women’s basketball in years since.
We also spoke with Kelly Hill, who played for legendary coaches Billie Moore and Linda Sharp during her collegiate career. Hill played in the first Colorado State Girls Basketball Championship and then chose to attend Cal State Fullerton. There, Hill played for Moore in her first season back from coaching the 1976 Olympic team. After Moore left for UCLA, Hill transferred to the University of Southern California where she played for Sharp. Hill later coached the University of Nebraska and Western Illinois University. She discussed her years playing for two championship coaches in the 1970s.
Hall of Famer Lorene Ramsey was our final interview of the day. Ramsey guided the Illinois Central College women’s basketball team to five NJCAA Division II titles. She also coached the softball team to two national championships. In 1998, she became the first coach in NJCAA history to win a championship in basketball and softball in the same year. She shared stories from her own successful athletic career with AAU and club teams and talked about building one of the country’s premier junior college programs.
Stay tuned to this page for more updates about If Not For Them and follow our new social media accounts too. You can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @IfNotForThem. Promo videos are available on our YouTube channel If Not For Them; Brenda VanLengen, Exec Producer.