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Hoophall, Springfield Public Forum to celebrate 50th anniversary of Title IX: ‘James Naismith wanted this game to be played by everyone’

PUBLISHED May 17, 2022 | News

SPRINGFIELD — Nancy Lieberman’s voice echoed throughout the Jerry Colangelo Court of Dreams at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Tuesday morning as she reflected on the future of women in sports.

“There’s many young ladies — little girls that are two, three, four years old that need to know if they’re great, they can be in the Basketball Hall of Fame,” Lieberman said via video conference. “That if they can coach, they can coach in the NBA. That you can have equal pay and that’s all part of the process.”

Lieberman, a 1996 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee in her own right, is one of eight woman who will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX next month as part of a joint event put together by the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Springfield Public Forum.

“The 50th anniversary of Title IX is an important milestone,” Springfield Public Forum Executive Director Michelle Morash said during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the event. “Bringing two Springfield institutions together for this event is an extraordinary way to commemorate its profound impact and discuss the work still to be done.

The joint event will take place June 21 at Springfield Symphony Hall, just two days before the 50th anniversary of when President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law. The event is free to the public and will begin at 7 p.m., featuring a pair of panels.

President and chief executive officer of the Hall of Fame John Doleva reflected during Tuesday’s press conference on how basketball inventor James Naismith would feel about the Hall of Fame celebrating Title IX.

Doleva noted how shortly after inventing the game, Naismith worked with Senda Berenson Abbott at Smith College to expand the reach of the sport.

“James Naismith wanted this game to be played by everyone,” Doleva said. “He insisted it be inclusive. He’d be happy that Title IX was introduced and passed to support female athletes, but being the thoughtful guy that he was, I believe he would’ve wondered why it took so long or perhaps why it was even necessary to begin with.”

“This event aligns perfectly with our goals to both look back and look ahead.”

The first panel during the June 21 forum will feature a reflection of the women’s game before Title IX passed. It will feature:

  • Jody Conradt: A 1998 Hall of Fame Inductee and former women’s coach at the University of Texas with over 900 collegiate wins, a 1986 NCAA Championship and 21 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • Donna Lopiano: The Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1992-2007 who, in that role, ensured collegiate compliance with Title IX legislation
  • Sylvia Hatchell: A 2013 Hall of Fame Inductee and former women’s coach at the University of North Carolina where she earned a NCAA National Championship in 1994 and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1988
  • Nancy Lieberman: A 1996 Hall of Fame Inductee and two-time Collegiate National Championship player and three-time College All-American, who had a distinguished pro career spanning 28 years. She was the first woman to play on a men’s professional basketball team. One of basketball’s most decorated athletes of all time.

The second panel, meanwhile, will discuss the impact Title IX has on women’s athletics today, and will feature:

  • Cheryl Miller: A 1995 Hall of Fame Inductee, two-time National Collegiate Champion, four-time Collegiate All-American, three-time College Player of the Year and 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Winner
  • Carol Stiff: One of ESPN’s most senior women executives, largely responsible for ESPN’s commitment to showcasing women’s sports across all platforms
  • Tara VanDerveer: A 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee, VanDerveer is the women’s coach at Stanford University with three NCAA National Championships, five NCAA Coach of the Year honors, and currently owns the most wins of any coach in Women’s Collegiate Basketball History
  • Morgan Tuck: UConn standout player, four-time NCAA National Champion, USA Basketball Gold Medalist and former WNBA Player for the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm