Title IX 40 for 40: Mary McCagg
Wherever she has gone, Mary McCagg has achieved
success. Before graduating from Harvard in 1989, McCagg helped the
Radcliffe women’s rowing team to an undefeated season during
her senior campaign, including a win in England at the
Women’s Henley Regatta. After graduation, McCagg spent 11
years on the U.S. National Rowing Team, competing in the 1992 and
1996 Summer Olympic Games. She went on to serve on the USRowing
Board of Directors from 1996-2000, and since then, has been a
member of the 11-person United States Olympic Committee (USOC)
Board of Directors.
What impact has Title IX had on you/college athletics?
McCagg: For me (and my twin sister Elizabeth), Title IX allowed me to see being a competitive athlete as a key piece of my resume when applying to college, rather than a small note to be included at the bottom of my application. It was amazing for us to look at programs across the country that offered us scholarships to rowing of all things. And it is even more amazing now to see the breadth of the competitive landscape in women’s rowing in 2012. The women of the National team come from all corners of the country, from programs big and small, most of which would not exist were it not for Title IX.
What is the biggest challenge to women in sports?
McCagg: Having recently attended the IOC Women’s Conference on Women in Sport, and hearing a presentation on Women’s Sports in the Media, I think one of the biggest challenges to women in sports is getting more engagement/respect for women’s sports in the media. The speaker at this presentation noted the top 10 highest viewed athletic events, and none of them were women’s events…. The Super Bowl, the World Cup, World Series. It is imperative to get past the idea that women’s events are (pick your adjective) slower/too gentle/boring and therefore not worth media attention. Women in the US should not have to travel overseas to compete after college because America will not support women’s professional leagues (outside of the WNBA).
Who is someone you view as a pioneer in women's athletics and why?
McCagg: As a rower, I would have to say Chris Ernst, Anne Warner and the women of the 1976 Yale women’s rowing team. I was just reading the article about them ESPN Magazine, and it gave me chills. The courage that it took to do what they did, some of them freshmen in college, is just amazing. They made the issues surrounding Title IX front page news, and for that, we all must be eternally grateful to those women.
What is the biggest change Title IX had on the Ivy League?
McCagg: One of the biggest challenges that I see is how to frame Title IX as something that supports women’s sports and not something that is viewed as making athletic programs cut men’s sports. Through my work with the USOC, I have seen the key pipeline for elite sports that comes from intercollegiate athletic programs drying up (especially in men’s gymnastics and wrestling programs). This is something that all athletes must fight against, but it should never be said that one of these programs had to be cut to comply with Title IX.