Interview of Phyllis J. Bailey by Judith Ball Fountain
Creators:Bailey, Phyllis J.
Contributors:Fountain, Judith Ball
Subjects (LCSH):Ohio State University -- History -- Sources
Sex descrimination in education -- History -- Sources
Sports for women -- History
Bailey, Phyllis J. -- Interviews
Ohio State University. Athletics Dept.
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Phyllis Bailey served as Professor of Physical Education at Ohio State for some thirty years. She was also the first woman to serve as an Assistant Athletic Director (from 1974 to 1994). Over the years, Phyllis Bailey exerted a very strong influence in the development of women’s athletics at Ohio State. From an early age Phyllis Bailey, growing up in northern Ohio within sight of Lake Erie, was encouraged by her parents to participate in athletics. She tried softball, tennis, and even football. She enrolled at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana, where initially she planned to major in chemistry, but after one year she changed her major to physical education. Bailey earned her master’s at Indiana University. Her first job after graduation was as an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University. After four years there, she decided in 1956 to enroll at Ohio State to earn her doctorate in Physical Education. She was attracted to Ohio State by the outstanding faculty, and by the opportunity to work on her doctorate while also working as an Instructor. One of her first responsibilities at Ohio State was to serve as an advisor to the Women’s Recreation Association. Soon thereafter, in February, 1957, following the death of Professor Dorothy Wirth Wein in an automobile accident, Bailey was appointed Coordinator of Intramurals and Recreation, and the Women’s Sports Program. This increased responsibility led to her promotion to Assistant Professor but also meant that she could no longer work on her doctorate at Ohio State. Only Instructors enjoyed that privilege. This dilemma presented a “huge conflict” for Bailey at the time, but even without the Ph.D., as she would discover over time, she was able to rise to the top of her profession. In the 1950s, administration of athletics at Ohio State was divided into a Men’s Division and Women’s Division. Both units were part of the Department of Physical Education, a part of the College of Education. The women’s program was housed in Pomerene Hall, the men in the men’s gymnasium in Larkins Hall. In 1968 the two Divisions were combined into the School of Physical Education, and in 1969 the name was changed again to the School of Health, Education, and Recreation. Lewis Hess was the first Director of the Men’s Division; Mary K. Beyrer, the first Director of the Women’s Division. The question also arose as to where to house the women’s intramural and intercollegiate athletic programs. In the academic year 1971-1972, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was established. It was the counterpart of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for men. It was decided to align the women’s programs at OSU with the AIAW. Bailey acquired a new title: the Associate Director of University Recreation and Intramural and Women’s Intercollegiate Sports. But the rigid separation of programs by gender continued. Once Bailey sought permission for the women’s synchronized swimmers to present their annual show in the full-sized natatorium at Larkins, but this was denied. The small pool at Pomerene, which Bailey compared to a bathtub, was only a 20-yard pool. The reason given for the denial for women to use Larkins Hall was that “the men would have to put bathing trunks on.” Even so, Bailey was allowed considerable latitude in planning the new women’s program, unfortunately, in part, “because no one really cared.” Nor was there any institutional excitement or support. She was not surprised by the lack of interest. In 1964, she recalled, she had advocated that the women’s so-called “sports clubs,” which maintained a full schedule of intercollegiate competition and observed written intercollegiate rules, should be called what, in fact, they were: intercollegiate sports and not “sports clubs.” She anticipated a spirited discussion, or even strong opposition, but there was none. “Do what you want to do.” No one seemed to care. Bailey is careful to credit some of her predecessors, especially Gladys Palmer who was an early Chair of the Women’s Division of Physical Education. In 1941 Palmer organized a national golf tournament at Ohio State for women, and this led to creation of the policies for intercollegiate competition for women at Ohio State. The tournament was very successful and continued for years, but Palmer was ostracized by some for this innovation. Another policy adopted by Palmer was to allow women students to travel to where they could find the best competition. Many universities at the time had an unwritten rule that “girls” should not travel more than 50 miles from campus for athletic events. The adoption of the Education Act of 1972 contained the famous Title IX, which mandated that there could be no discrimination in education on the basis of sex. This had an enormous impact on women’s athletics at Ohio State and elsewhere, even though Title IX was not understood in the beginning by some, including Ohio State, to include athletics. By January 1974, however, the NCAA confirmed that Title IX did, in fact, mean equality of women’s and men’s programs in athletics. At Ohio State it became known that the university must be well on its way to compliance by 1975. J. Edward “Ed” Weaver, who succeeded Richard Larkins (1947-1970) as Athletic Director (1970-1977), initially had some personal reservations about Title IX, especially as to whether it applied to athletics. But once it became clear by 1974 that Title IX applied to athletics, Weaver had to oversee a reorganization of athletic administration at Ohio State. Thus, Phyllis Bailey, a holdover from the Richard Larkins era, was placed on his staff as Assistant Director of Athletics on July 1, 1975. There was less than a warm welcome for Bailey and other women under the new system. She reports that the women felt like “unwelcome guests” in the Athletic Department. By September 10 she still had no office in St. John’s arena. After a chance encounter with Weaver late one afternoon, in which Bailey admits to using some “not terribly kind language,” Weaver finally provided an office. He also resisted allowing women to use locker or training rooms, but ultimately relented. Many of the men’s coaches feared that Title IX would mean they might now lose half of their budgets to women’s sports. Bailey moved cautiously, and she advised the women’s coaches to do the same. Efforts were made to get to know the men’s coaches personally, and reassure them that the women wanted to work closely with them, and not against them. She submitted a five-year plan to Weaver so he could better understand her sense of how best to move forward under Title IX. Bailey’s careful preparation, sense of humor, and her patience enabled her to succeed in a difficult situation. Gradually, such efforts bore fruit. For example, Joe Hewlett, the men’s gymnastics coach, invited Bailey to send her women’s team to the gymnasium two days a week since the equipment in Larkins was much better than in Pomerene. But some men’s coaches, especially those of the individual sports, “fought to the bitter end.” Perhaps not surprisingly, opposition also came from certain women who favored more rapid changes. Bailey recalls that many of the women who had been her professional friends in physical education, when it had been a separate Women’s Division, “just kind of walked away.” She felt “very lonely.” She not only lost much of her traditional base of support within Physical Education, but elsewhere on campus, she acquired a group of “enemies” – “feminists” who felt Bailey was not sufficiently aggressive in demanding more quickly enhanced rights for women. But Bailey was convinced through her long experience with campus traditions and personnel that the best results could not be achieved through ego and a “sledge hammer.” She thought it less important that men sometimes claimed credit for the changes she had achieved over time than the fact that important changes occurred. Accepting trade-offs did not mean “selling out.” Late in her career as Assistant Athletic Director, Bailey approached Jim Jones, the Athletic Director (1987-1994), to advocate that women’s sports programs at OSU had progressed to the point that administratively speaking, sports should no longer be divided by gender. Jones agreed and there came a time – Bailey’s last year at Ohio State, actually – that she was responsible for both men’s and women’s basketball. Bill Myles, Associate Athletic Director, continued to oversee football. Jones also said that he regarded Bailey and Myles to be equal in their jobs. As for Bailey, as the integration of women’s programs continued, she suddenly found herself as “the only woman in a man’s world.” Bailey reflected on the changing state of women’s athletics. By the start of the 20th century the influence of the industrial revolution had expanded women’s roles in society. At Ohio State there was a women’s basketball team, but for some years men were not allowed to watch them play. Later they could attend, and some “laughed about the bloomers.” After World War I some young women were allowed to compete in the Olympics, but they were ill-prepared and failed miserably. In 1922 Mrs. Herbert Hoover chaired a committee to study the role of women in sports. The conclusion was that women physically and emotionally could not stand the stress of intense competition. They found themselves excluded from gymnasiums all over the country. World War II, when women kept the factories going, and many served in the military, provoked a reappraisal. Women participated broadly in the Olympics of 1956, but had minimal success, and were blamed for the low American medal count. But of course “we hadn’t trained our girls.” One change was to amend the rules of certain women’s sports, such as basketball and volleyball, so that greater skills could be developed. In basketball, for example, women were now allowed to dribble the ball, and team size was reduced from six to five, so all team members, rather than just two, as had been the rule, were allowed to roam the entire court. More attention was given to improving the highly competitive and skilled young woman, rather than focusing on participation by all regardless of basic talent. Then Title IX came along, and that was “the engine that pulled [reforms] down the track much more rapidly than would ever have been the case.” As women became more and more involved in collegiate athletics, added attention needed to be paid to the balance between recruiting practices and graduation rates. Bailey felt that in her day as Associate Athletic Director the balance was very good for both women’s and men’s sports. Most of the coaches, both male and female, were half-time coach and half-time physical education instructor. Women athletes, unlike many of the men, recognized that there were few opportunities for them to make a living in professional sports, and so nearly all come seeking a degree. As schools began to offer more grants-in-aid to women athletes following Title IX, Bailey insisted that women athletes receive the same benefits as male students. Bailey took much pride in this, and also in her conviction that Ohio State developed the “best intercollegiate [women’s] program in the Big Ten and one of the best in the United States.” She regretted that Ohio State never won a national championship in women’s sports other than synchronized swimming, which was not an NCAA sport. Two sports she would like to have added were only added after her tenure, ice hockey and crew. In 1978, an outside authority, the Office of OCR, reviewed the women’s programs at Ohio State, and gave the program very high marks. Two women faculty members, Peg Hines in Anatomy and Joann Stevens in Nursing, both members of the Athletic Council, offered strong support. Absent their support, Bailey feels that Weaver would never have named her Assistant Athletic Director. Bailey reports that although Ed Weaver (1970-1977) “fought me every inch of the way,” he later confided to an associate that his “greatest achievement” was the development of the women’s athletic program. “We won the battle together and I will always respect him for that.” Hugh Hindman (1977-1984) provided a “good partnership,” and always sought to do “what’s right.” The only “problem” she had with Rick Bay (1984-1987) was that she was several inches taller than he, and she quickly learned it was best to sit in a low chair in his office. When Bay left in 1987 he personally delivered his office chair to Bailey and said that he would be “honored” for her to have it. She has nothing but praise for Jim Jones (1987-1994), and reports she “could not have worked with a man any easier” than with Jones. They had known each other for years. They developed a tremendous respect for each other. It was a wonderful relationship. On July 1, 1993, Bailey informed Jones that she planned to retire in 1994, and he informed her that he planned to do the same. She reflected that because of Title IX, opportunities for women athletes in higher education had markedly improved. She also saw better opportunities for women in athletic administration. As for herself, her many unusual opportunities at Ohio State had created for her “a wonderful life.”
Richard "Rick" Bay: Athletic Director, Ohio State (1984-1987) (pp. 49-50) -- Mary K. Beyrer: Director of Women’s Division of School of Physical Education (p. 15) -- Arthur Daniels: Prof. of Physical Education at Ohio State (p. 8) -- Lewis A. Hess: Director of Men’s Division of School of Physical Education (p. 15) -- Joseph M. Hewlett: Men’s gymnastic coach (p. 31) -- Hugh Hindman: Athletic Director, Ohio State (1977-1984) (p. 49) -- Peg Hines: Professor of Anatomy, Member of Athletic Council (p. 48) -- James Jones: Athletic Director, Ohio State (1987-1994) (pp. 22-23, 29, 42, 50-51) -- Richard C. Larkins: Athletic Director, Ohio State (1947-1970) (p. 14) -- Margaret A. Mordy: Prof. of Physical Ed., Ohio State (1953-1974) (pp. 8, 10, 15) -- Bill Myles: Associate Director of Athletics (pp. 22-23) -- Gilbert Overtoyser: Prof. of Physical Education, Ohio State (p. 8)
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