An Evolution: Texas Women's Basketball

Over the last four decades The University of Texas at Austin Women's Basketball program has taken on the reputation as a national powerhouse in the sport. As Pat Summitt, Hall of Fame Tennessee Volunteers coach, said of UT's program upon Jody Conradt's retirement, "When we built our own program at Tennessee in the 1980s, we used Texas as our model.” The program stands as the sixth most winningest in NCAA Division I history with 867 wins through 2011 and has enjoyed 22 total conference championships and 25 NCAA Tournament appearances. An Evolution presents a historical view of the transformation of The University of Texas Women's Basketball program from its formation at the turn of the 20th century until the retirement of legendary head coach Jody Conradt in 2007. This online exhibit tracks notable moments that laid the groundwork for UT Women's Basketball today and documents the success of the program through the use of digital representations of original photographs and other archival materials.

This timeline of The University of Texas at Austin Women's Basketball program was created by Miriam Richards as part of her Spring 2012 Capstone project requirement. She did all of the original research, selecting of materials for exhibition, and web content writing. She would like to thank the Stark Center, especially Cindy Slater and Jan Todd, for sponsoring this project and for all of their support. She would also like to thank the following individuals for all of their guidance and help provided during the course of the project: Karen Pavelka, Capstone Advisor; Susan Sigmon, Communications Department, UT Athletics; Margaret Tiedeken, Sr. Administrative Associate, UT Athletics; Sonja Reid, Registrar, Harry Ransom Center; Jody Conradt, Former UT Women's Basketball Coach; Aryn Glazier, Photo Services, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

Women's Basketball Media Guide

During the 1979 season, after being featured in years past in the men's basketball programs, the women's basketball team issued it's first media guide.

First Event at the SEC

In their 11th intercollegiate season, the Longhorns season opener against Temple Junior College had the honor of being the first event to take place in the newly constructed Special Events Center (now the Frank Erwin Center). The Longhorns defeated Temple, 67-64. Temple guard Evwella Munn, who later transferred to UT, scored the building's very first basket. After the game, senior Retha Swindell said, "We were talking before the game about how we wanted to be the first team to score there. We didn't want Temple to score first. So what happens? They go out and score first."

Ideson vs. Whitis

James Naismith had invented basketball in 1891, but it took almost ten years for the game to make its way to the South. On Saturday, January 13, 1900, it is said that Eleanore Norvell initiated the first women's basketball game at UT. The Ideson and Whitis coed teams played four rudimentary 10-minute quarters in the basement of the old Main Building. Whitis won by a final score of 3-2. This first game set into motion the emergence of basketball as a popular sport at UT, especially among women.

All-Star Team of 1902

At the end of the 1902 season, the university's first "all-star" team was chosen. The team received recognition from UT publications such as the Texan, Cactus, and University Record as the varsity squad. Eleanore Norvell served as the coach and had eight players against the "Town Girls." The UT all-star team won 7-4, with observers paying a 10-cent admission fee. However, men were not allowed to watch so some peered through the windows of the gym and cheered.

Keeping Basketball in Check

With enthusiasm for playing basketball growing, Director Aden and Dean of Women Helen Marr Kirby kept a close eye on developments in the sport at UT. As compared to the early years of basketball's establishment at the school, the teams were not allowed to play off campus. For a period of time, contests were cancelled due to several unidentified "unfortunate incidents" in the interclass games. However, interest remained as keen as ever and basketball games would eventually resume.

Anna Hiss Hired

In 1921, Anna Hiss replaced Eunice Aden as the Director of Physical Training for Women. Steeped in the nationwide philosophies of womanhood and femininity related to physical activity, basketball was seen as unfeminine and dangerous. Hiss strove to develop and maintain a program that kept basketball simply a sport of enjoyment. This notion stemmed from the belief in moderate physical activity, a de-emphasis of competition among women, and the encouragement of inclusive participation over individual achievement. Most important was the establishment of a female-run space for women's college athletics to protect athletes from the commercialization and professionalization that was common in the "male model" of sports.

Women's Gymnasium Built

Considered one of Anna Hiss's lasting achievements and a model facility during its day, the Women's Gymnasium was built in 1931 (The gymnasium was eventually renamed in her honor two years after her death in 1974). Hiss served as a crucial component in planning its construction having traveled, of her own expense, around the country to examine existing gymnasiums. Completed for $400,000, the facility included squash, handball, and basketball courts, dance studios, an archery range, a large swimming pool, and faculty offices. The basketball courts, however, were all undersized, designed to discourage spectators from watching. The baskets were also placed directly against the wall to keep athletes from playing out of control.

Intramural, Interclass

Under the guidance of the Director of Women's Physical Education, Eunice Aden, recreational activities expanded. Resulting from this expansion was the formation of basketball teams for each class (freshman, sophomore, etc.). While basketball was the only sport with an intercollegiate component, it was largely an intramural and interclass event. "T" pins, letter sweaters and a "Texas blanket" were awarded to those students who achieved the highest levels of participation based on a point system and were considered a significant achievement for female athletes on campus.

N Hall

Women's athletics classes were originally held in the Main Building, room permitting. They would then take over the basement of the Women's Building in 1903. In 1914, N Hall, commonly referred to as "the Shack," was acquired for women's athletics. Here, UT women's basketball players practiced and played for over 15 years. Staying true to the ideals of the time, N Hall had little standing room for spectators, particularly men.

UT VS. Old Dominion on ESPN

UT Women's Basketball made their first televised appearance on ESPN against Old Dominion, the defending national champions. Following their victory over Old Dominion, it became readily apparent just how talented the 1986 squad was. After the game Old Dominion Coach Marianne Stanley said, “I think Texas is a team of destiny, they want it and don’t want anybody to come in here and take it away from them.”

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