BY PETER DORFMAN
Twenty years ago, Indiana University handed out its first varsity “I” letters to female athletes—91 in all—at the June Cream and Crimson Weekend festivities. Three local women, all members of IU’s 1973 Final Four women’s basketball team, were among those whose varsity letters were awarded long after they were due.
Vella Jo Price, Sue Logsdon, and Evelyn Butler played pre-Title IX, before colleges were required to provide equal opportunities for female athletes. In fact, women’s sports weren’t even administered by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA); women competed under the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).
“There were no scholarships; you played because you wanted to play,” says Price, who played varsity basketball and softball from 1972 to 1976. “We wore the same uniform for softball and basketball. We raked the softball field and drew the lines ourselves.”
There was essentially no recruiting for the women’s teams. Pioneering IU basketball coach Bea Gorton posted fliers for team tryouts in the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) Building. “I gave it a shot and made the team,” Price says.
Varsity basketball games originally were played in the HPER Building. “We finally got to play in Assembly Hall in 1973,” recalls Logsdon, who played for IU from 1970–73. “But [men’s basketball coach] Bob Knight did not want us in the building.”
“We got to use the court when there was an opening in Knight’s schedule,” says Butler, who played alongside Price and Logsdon. “We were scheduled to play Michigan State, and we had to sit and wait for him to finish his practice, and then we got to play our game.”
In 1973, the IU women made the Final Four in the AIAW national championships in New York City. And in 2014, Price, Butler, and Logsdon were among those present when a red-and-white championship banner for the 1973 team was raised to the rafters of Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Price, 63, is an administrator in the IU Office of Affirmative Action. Logsdon, 66, is an administrator at the IU Foundation. Butler, 64, also works locally, and for 35 years, has been a Big 10 observer at IU women’s basketball games, rating the officials.
“Today’s teams play about three times as many games as we did,” Price says. “They have opportunities we didn’t have. With scholarships, the expectations are much higher. There’s more pressure on women athletes today. But we would’ve enjoyed that. Anybody would.”