The message from Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) was greeted with loud applause and knowing laughs.
"First they tried to eat the sheep," she told the delegates at the convention of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women here last week. "Now they've seen the light and want to herd them"
She was referring to unsuccessful attempts by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to kill or weaken Title 9 and to then-pending Ncaa plan to sponsor some women's championships.
As Schroeder was exhorting the women to fight for their rights, delegates at the NCAA convention in New Orleans decided to initiate women's championships in five sports for their Division II and III member schools in 1981.
The action was incendiary enough to strain further the relationship between the two organizations which, until last Tuesday's NCAA vote, were discursing possible accommodations of interest. Now, post-conventional developments promise another year of uncertainty and confrontation for the two collegiate sports governing the bodies.
"NCAA counsel has indicated to the NCAA that it has both a moral and legal responsibility to provide championships for women," said Edward S. Steiz, the Springfield College athletic director who helped lead this Division II vote.
"Many don't agree that the AIAW should be the sole governing body for women and many think the same thing about the NCAA and men," Steiz said.
Raymond J. Whispell, the athletic director at Muhlenberg College who was instrumental in the NCAA Division III vote, said, "We're not a member of AIAW so our women have not had a chance to qualify for a champonship program.
"Until now, in order to provide our women with that opportunity we should have had to join the AIAW and the position of our women was that they saw no point in spending money to join."
Shocked by the NCAA action, AIAW delegates condemned it as a blatant attempt to sieze eventual control of all women's sports. If NCAA Division II and III schools, the smaller ones, took this position, could Division I, the bigger and more powerful schools, be far behind.
The AIAW delegates also condemned the action as the first move to destroy their nine-year-old organization. The NCAA pays championship costs for its teams and a similiar polich for women, if adopted, could be an irrestible lure for financially pinched athletic directors already trying to comply with Title 9.
Perhaps even worse, several delegates said, is that the NCAA action would end up discriminating against the very femal athletes for whom the NCAA delegates said they were trying to broaden athletic opportunities.
The AIAW offers its three divisions 35 championships in 17 sports. Under the NCAA plan there would be only five sports -- field hockey, volleyball, basketball, swimming and tennis -- in an undermined number of championships.
Title 9, the federal law barring sex discrimination in school sports programs, requires colleges to enhance and upgrade athletic opportunities for women. Thus, any reduction in such opportunities could be viewed as a Title 9 violation.
The NCAA convention adjourned unaware -- as subsequent interviews with NCAA leaders indicate -- of the Pandora's box it had opened.
The NCAA delegated did not know that AIAW rules would prohibit those shcools that opt for an NCAA women's championship from competing in AIAW championships in that or any other sports.
Because NCAA and AIAW rules are based on differing philosophies, a woman competing in an NCAA championship would violate AiawRules and, therefore, by ineligible to compete in the AIAW.
A transfer student n the AIAW, for example, may play for her new school immediately, but can't get an athletic scholarship for a year. The NCAA's rule is the opposite.
Donna Lopiano, AIAW president-elect, expressed surprise that the NCAA did not know of the AWIW rules because, she said, NCAA officials and committees had been informed of them.
Lopiano added, "Is the NCAA going to allow their schools to play in theri championship programs without following their rules?
"It would be like the University of Texas letting a University of Houston kid come over and take classes there and get credits for Houston. You don't have to be admitted? You don't have to follow the college's standards?
Colleges would have to choose between the AIAW and the NCAA. Colleges could not, for example, have some teams compete in the NCAA womens championships and other teams in the AIAW's. Since membership in the AIAW is by program and not by sport, it is an all-or-nothing propostion, AIAW leaders said.
"We are not a Chinese menu where you can go up and down column A and column B and pick and choose as you please," AIAW consel Margot Polivy said.
Tom Hansen, NCAA assistant executive director, said, "The institutions which voted at the NCAA convention had very much in mind picking and choosing.
"The people in divisions II and III repeatedly said they want additional opportunities for their women. They're not trying to harm AIAW," Hansen added. "It's just that they want options."
"There are those who think the AIAW hasn't done a good job, that they've not had well-managed championships and that there's a lack of a national staff . . .
"Everbody anticipated expanded opportunities for women and felt that Title 9 compelled them to offer championships."
Steitz and Whispell, who are on the NCAA's advisory committee on women's sports, and Hansen were not the only ones surprised to learn of the AIAW policy. NCAA Excutive Director Walter Byers and Stan Marshall, athletic director at South Dakota State who played a prominent role in the Division II decison, were equally surprised.
"I don't think they can enforce that rule," Byers said. "As a matter of practicality, it won't work. But if that is the position to be taken by them, I imagine the NCAA will just increase its offering (of sports)."
"We do not intened to deprive our women of the additional sports" offered by AIAW, said Marshall, a former NCAA secretary by AIAW, said Marshall, a former NCAA secretray by AIAW, said Marshall, a former NCAA secretary-treasure. "I hope we can get the two groups together and find a way for institutions to pick and choose the best interests of the athletes."
There are 178 colleges in the NCAA's Division II, of which 17 percent don't belong to the AIAW. Roughly 27 percent of 280 Division III schools also have not joined AIAW.
While the NCAA Division II and III schools may opt to increase the number of women's championships offered, the member shcools will have to wrestle with which ones to add and how to finance the program.
The 262 Division I school pays the substantial share of championship costs and, largely for this reason, tried to block the women's championships in Division II and III.
Would Division I schools -- or II or III, for that matter -- be willing to siphon more money from their own programs to support an expanded championship program for women next year? Would the championships seem so appealing if the tab isn't picked up?