Former Utah gymnast Melissa Marlowe hears all about the struggles of women in Title IX and is thankful she can hardly relate. Women's gymnastics has enjoyed immense popularity at Utah, so Marlowe never knew what the buzz was all about until she left college.
"When I competed, we felt like we had everything," she said. "Title IX seemed like a thing of the far past, even though in reality it wasn't that long ago. But for the first three of my four years at Utah, we had a much larger fan base and following than the men's basketball team, and football success was hit and miss, so we were kind of the darlings on campus. There were times when we were the lead story on the news, and the top fold in the newspapers, sometimes even over the Jazz my senior year."
Unlike the team now, which enjoys its own practice facility, Marlowe's team practiced in a bare-bones area that didn't even have its own in-ground pit. But Marlowe said she never felt shorted in any way, particularly with Greg Marsden as the coach.
"Greg was feisty for a women's coach, especially back then, and I felt protected for the first time ever in my career," she said. "I really don't think that I gave much thought to a woman's place in the sports world at the time; I was just out to do my job and win.
"It took a full year after the '88 Olympics to get my head on straight and be able to start down that path, but I had everything I needed as an athlete to succeed in the NCAAs. As an adult, of course I see the perspectives, the timeline, and the current disparity that exists, but by and large I feel women are closing the gap with the opportunities on the field and in the marketing arena.
"Put it in perspective if Congress won't even pass an equitable pay act, then sports will naturally be behind also, but the women will continue to push the current barriers and limits and we will never stop."