March 1, 2006

Venable’s Birch Bayh Awarded NCAA’s Gerald Ford Award for Longstanding Commitment to Gender Equity in Collegiate Sports

5 min

Author of seminal Title IX legislation and former Purdue athlete honored for his role as “father” of equal opportunity in collegiate sports; shares Ford award with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Washington, DC (March 1, 2006) – Recognizing his pivotal role as the original sponsor and co-author of the landmark Title IX legislation in 1972 which mandated equal opportunity for men and women in collegiate sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association awarded Venable LLP partner and former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh its NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award.

Sharing the award with Senator Bayh was John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins who led the team to 10 national championships.  Both men attended Purdue University in Indiana.  Named for the nation’s 38th president, the Gerald Ford Award honors “individuals who have provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis over the course of his or her career.”  The award ceremony was held last month in Indianapolis.

“Among my many experiences in public life, I consider myself fortunate to have been involved in the passage of Title IX that has opened college athletics to women,” Mr. Bayh said.  “Sports and athletics play a critical role in young people’s development, and I would like to think that Title IX helped make modern-day women's athletics a reality, which included creating professional opportunities that were previously denied.  It is an honor to receive this award from the NCAA.”

Mr. Bayh credited his late wife Marvella for inspiring him to work at advancing opportunities for women at the college level.  Although an exceptional student, she had been rejected by the University of Virginia in 1951 because of the school’s prevailing ‘women need not apply’ policy.  “The dismissal of Marvella’s application, based solely on her gender, stuck with me for years, and remained on my mind when we worked on drafting the Title IX legislation,” he recounted.

“Marvella continued to acquaint me with the insidious nature of discrimination against women across the board.”

As an undergraduate at Purdue, Mr. Bayh played on the varsity  baseball team – he played shortstop and pitcher for the Purdue Boilermakers.  “My dream – underscore dream,” he recalled, “was to be a professional ball player.” 

Mr. Bayh noted the role his own family also played in his outlook on equality for women.  “My grandparents raised me, and Grandmother's decisions and hard work were critical in creating our successful farm operation.

Mr. Bayh’s father coached four sports at Indiana State University and was later enshrined in the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame for his work as a referee.  “He was a big proponent of appropriating money for girls’ physical education,” Mr. Bayh notes, recalling one memorable incident from his youth. 

“The family was sitting around the breakfast table one day – I must have been around 10 and my sister was 9,” he remembers, “when my dad mentioned, ‘I'm going to testify before Congress today.’  I asked him, ‘What are you going to say, Dad?’ and he replied, ‘I'm going to tell them that they need to provide the money so that little girls can have physical education.  And if they ask why, I'm going to say that little girls need strong bodies to carry their minds around just like little boys.’”

Of his co-honoree of the NCAA award, Mr. Bayh said: “It’s a great privilege to share this with John Wooden.  He has always been a hero of mine.  Coach Wooden stands out for his unmatched success on the court and especially off it, in the way he treated his players and the respect he showed for sport and sportsmanship.  He pushed the best philosophy of coaching – that it’s as important to develop the person as it is the player.”

Mr. Bayh graduated from Purdue in 1951 and the Indiana University School of Law in 1960.  He served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1954 to 1962, rising to the position of Speaker in 1959 at the age of 30, and was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1961.

Mr. Bayh joined the Senate in 1963.  He is best remembered as the architect of Title IX, but also holds the distinction as the only lawmaker since the Founding Fathers to author two amendments to the U.S. Constitution – the 25th Amendment on presidential and vice presidential succession and the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.  He also authored the Equal Rights Amendment, which fell one state short of ratification by the states.

In other areas, Mr. Bayh co-authored the Bayh-Dole Act, with former Senator Robert Dole to revitalize the nation's patent system.  He was also chief author of the Juvenile Justice Act, mandating the separation of juvenile offenders from adult prisoners, and established programs to prevent juvenile delinquency.  For many years, Mr. Bayh served as a member of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Among other leadership roles within the Senate, Mr. Bayh chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1977 to 1980 and the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence from 1984 to 1994.

This was the third year that the NCAA issued its President’s Award, in honor of former President Ford, who was a stand-out football player at the University of Michigan and attended Yale Law School.  The two previous recipients of the Award were former University of Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh (2004) and former chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, William Friday (2005).

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