Press Box: Female college athletes break barriers

Illustration by Killian Goodale-Porter.

Jenny Allen, Contributing writer 

We have seen women’s sports at the collegiate level rise beyond expectations. For decades women faced unequal rights compared to men. 

Women didn’t compete at the college level without discrimination until the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972, but now female athletes are defining women’s sports as its own identity. 

The NCAA created the Gender Equity Task Force in 1993, which has led to equal opportunities for women within college sports.

Most notable, the Task Force has expanded the women’s basketball bracket, approved Division-III women’s basketball broadcasting and has established an internal gender equity evaluation process. 

The Task Force is currently focusing on applying gender equity values to revenue distribution. 

Female college athletes are finally receiving the equality and attention they deserve, which is motivating females all over the world to pursue their dreams as college athletes. 

In just the past couple of years, women’s sports at the collegiate level have made marks on history and are establishing power within college sports. 

More popular than ever and currently gaining the attention of millions is women’s college basketball. 

The Iowa Hawkeyes home opening game for the 2023-2024 season versus DePaul broke the record for the most attendance in women’s basketball history, seating 55,646 people, according to ESPN. 

Not only was this a record breaking attendance event for women’s college basketball, it was also the first women’s college basketball game to be played in an outdoor football stadium. 

This game was more than just basketball and breaking records, all net proceeds were donated to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, according to ESPN. 

The Iowa women’s basketball team is drawing unbelievable amounts due to national player of the year, Caitlin Clark. 

Clark won the ESPY for best female college athlete in 2023, but she didn’t stop there.

 In the 2023-2024 season, Clark has broken all sorts of records, inspiring thousands of female athletes. 

Clark broke the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record on Feb. 15, scoring 49 points, including a three-pointer from the halfcourt logo. 

Clark hasn’t only become the face of women’s college basketball but the face of women’s college sports. 

In the game against No. 2 Ohio State on Feb. 29, Clark broke the all-time men’s and women’s NCAA Division-I scoring record passing Pete “Pistol” Maravich. Clark’s dedication and prestigious practice has shown everyone that female athletes are able to compete with male athletes and even surpass their achievements. 

This game wasn’t only monumental for Clark, this game also became the most watched women’s basketball game in FOX networks history having an average 3.4 million viewers, according to USA today

Clark currently has 3,737 points and is the first Division-I player to exceed over 3,500 points, 1000+ assists and over 850 rebounds in a college career, according to HawkEye Sports

Clark has 17 games with a triple-double, including six just this season, which ranks her second in Division-1 history, according to ESPN

Clark recently just announced she will be entering the 2024 WNBA draft. 

All over the world, female athletes are looking up to Clark. She has shown millions that women are able to make a name for themselves. 

Let’s switch things up to women in football — yes, football. Now let’s be honest, most of the time, when we think of football, we tend to only think of male athletes, but that won’t always be the case.

We have seen female athletes appear as kickers in collegiate football games before. Liz Heaston’s Willamette College football jersey, #39, hangs in the College Football Hall of Fame representing her as the first female to score in a NAIA game. 

Heaston kicked two extra points in a game versus Linfield College in 1997, but now new history is being made. 

Haley Van Voorhis, a third-year at Shenandoah University, was the first female to appear in an NCAA football game as a non-kicker.

In the 2023 football season, Voorhis got her first minutes as a safety in the first quarter of the game versus Juniata College. 

The Hornets took the victory home this game winning 48-7, according to ESPN.

Voorhis is also a part of the Hornets track and field team and serves as a reminder that women are just as capable as men, no matter in sports, business or life itself. 

College female athletes all over are making up for the missed opportunities that unequal rights have given them. 

Athletes around the world have been encouraged by college female athletes no matter the sport, but rather their ability to make a change and have an impact on women’s history. 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Title IX was enacted to allow female athletes to play collegiate-level sports, but in reality, the bill denied the allowance of discrimination against female collegiate sports, which had been around since the 1890s.

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