The governing body for women's collegiate athletics approved a number of measures today, including "full-ride" athletic scholarships, giving female athletes rights and opportunities that have long been available to their male counterparts.
Following sometimes impassioned debates, members of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women voted on recruiting and financial matters that have traditionally been a source of strife in the 5-year-old organization.
AIAW president Judith Holland said the convention's votes today "are a clear expression of the feeling of the association to not discriminate against women athletes in any area."
Some of the measres approved today, such as free academic tutoring paid for by the athletic department and the full-ride scholarships, would not have been passed a few years ago because of the then prevailing opinion that the women "shouldn't follow the men's course."
While female athletes currently are permitted full-ride athletic scholarships - tuition, fees, room and board - last year's AIAW convention voted to limit financial aid to tuition and fees, effective in August.
At the time, the AIAW urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to put the same restrictions on financial aid for male athletes to help ease the financial strain on college athletics. Athletes, the AIAW said, should not be treated differently from nonathletes.
The NCAA, which is meeting across town this week from the AIAW, did not even put the item on its agenda. Becuase of this and a fear that female athletes would begin filing sex-discrimination suits against the AIAW, the women's group voted, 275 to 145, to approve full rides.
The issue was expected to be debated at length, but rode in easily moments after Holland announced to the convention that a federal judge in Kansas City had dismissed the NCAA's suit against Title 9, a federal law barring sex discrimination in, among other things, athletics. The announcement was greeted with a jubilant standing ovation.
Earlier in today's session, the more conservative wing of the 430 colleges represented there defeated a proposal to allow colleges to pay for "talent assessment" trips to high schools and junior colleges and to allow the coaches to talk with the prospective student-athlete during the visit.
The fear of widespread recruiting scandals led to the defeat of the motion by a 230-212 vote.
After listening to the pleas of some coaches and student representatives, the convention voted to allow athletic departments to pay for academic tutoring. The students, nothing that male athletes get such tutoring, said it was necessary because the normal free-tutoring hours at most colleges conflict with practice and game times.
The convention also agreed that student-athletes should not lose their financial aid if illness prevents them from playing during the season.
The organization also voted to seek legal autonomy from, but continue their favorable relationship with, the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, the umbrella organization under which AIAW operates.