Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > News

Honoring Those Who Paved The Way in Women’s Athletics at the University of Maine

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Maine chapter.

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX and it is being celebrated all across the United States. Title IX was established with the purpose of creating equal opportunities for all genders and not discriminating against anyone based on their sex in places of education. Three years later, in 1975, the rule was amended to create and foster equal opportunities in athletics for all students regardless of sex.

In addition to dancing to the electric slide after a great win, the University of Maine Women’s Basketball team honored season ticket holders of more than 25 years by bringing them on the court. They also started a new tradition this season: in tribute to the 50th anniversary of Title IX,  the women’s team said “thank you” to those who not only advanced the game but advanced women’s athletics both locally and at UMaine collectively.

During the television/media stoppages in the game, the women’s basketball team  brought out local women to recognize them as “local pioneers of women’s athletics.” Each honoree received a basketball-themed stadium cushion and had their picture taken. These were posted to the teams’ many social media pages. These women ranged from former UMaine athletes and coaches, to media personnel. Joni Averill White, Sandy Thomas, and Lauren Noether were among those who were honored at home games this past season.

Joni Averill White was the first pioneer for women’s athletics to be recognized. White was a former columnist for the Bangor Daily News (BDN). In the Instagram post about her recognition, it mentioned that in 1979, White started writing at the BDN and covered many women’s games since then. In the 1980s, there was hardly anybody  focusing on women’s sports, but White was a catalyst in covering women’s college athletics.

Sandy Thomas was also honored at the women’s basketball  game against the University of Massachusetts Lowell back on January 4, 2023.  She spent her early years as a physical education and health teacher. After teaching, Thomas began her coaching career here at UMaine, and ended her coaching career as the head coach at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Thomas found herself as an assistant manager at the athletics store here on campus, after her coaching career. In addition to her career as a color commentator for the men’s and women’s basketball teams here on campus, she’s also the director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at both UMaine and Husson University.

Lauren Noether was one of the next pioneers to be honored, and her strides were just the  beginning of advancing women in sports on campus. Upon her recognition on Twitter, UMaine Athletics stated that in the 1970s, Noether and seven of her teammates took a stand for women’s rights and gained access to what was the men’s weight room at the time. This was their one and only goal, which they ultimately achieved.

Separately, National Girls & Women in Sports Day was on February 11, and was celebrated before, during, and after the team’s game against New Jersey Institute of Technology. All of the women’s athletic teams on campus came together at the Field House and held a clinic, where young girls could try different sports. Athletes from all the teams came out to help teach the girls about their respective sports and played along with them. Those who attended got the chance to meet our student-athletes, get autographs and take some pictures.

“Seeing all these young girls come out to support not only the women’s basketball team but the other women’s teams on campus is really heartwarming to see”, said Kayla Holcomb, a second-year student, from Connecticut and UMaine sports fan. Holcomb also mentioned that getting to see the athletes interact with young fans was “really inspiring, and [is] glad to see that their efforts are being recognized”. 

She also said that the women’s teams don’t get nearly as much draw as the men’s teams do, and that’s why she tries to attend as many women’s athletic events as she can during the semester.

Though these traditions were only instated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it’s one of many small things that women in athletics can do to say “thank you” to those who came before them. 

I'm a graduating senior studying journalism & media studies. I love to write op-eds and personal essays. I'm an aspiring sports writer wanting to focus on women in sports and issues within.