Release courtesy of Tiffin University
TIFFIN, Ohio - Tiffin University’s expansion and subsequent success in women’s athletics in the 1990s has resulted in a number of highly competitive athletic programs over the last 20 years. But there was a time at the start of the 1980s when the prospects for women athletes at TU simply didn’t exist. The university’s decision to pursue compliance with Title IX regulations changed all of that.
One women’s athlete that was an eyewitness to the dramatic introduction of women’s athletics at TU was Lori Hall. Hall, who is currently TU’s Vice-President for Human Resources/Campus Services, came to TU as a freshman in 1981. Initially, athletics at TU was the last thing on Hall’s mind.
“When I decided to attend college at Tiffin University, I did not think I would play any sports. In high school at New Riegel, I played volleyball, basketball and softball and earned twelve varsity letters. I played on very successful teams. Being involved on many competitive high school teams, I viewed what Tiffin University offered in sports like intramurals and I did not want to be a part of it,” Hall said.
But assistant athletic director Jim Tribbett was tasked to change that culture at TU. President George Kidd Jr. and Athletic Director Jim Reitenbach had given Tribbett the responsibility of overseeing the development of women’s athletics, and he took the job seriously.
“I was at home during that first week of classes my freshmen year and I received a call from Jim Tribbett. He said he was calling from TU and he asked me why I wasn’t playing volleyball. I gave him the explanation that I did not want to participate in intramurals or club sports. I was used to playing on competitive teams and I did not want to play just for fun. He said that a big part of his job was to recruit female athletes to participate in volleyball & softball and build up the programs. I told him that was nice but I still wasn’t interested. Once he offered financial aid, that got my attention and I decided to give it a try.”
Hall ended up playing on TU’s first official intercollegiate programs, competing in volleyball for three years and softball for four years (three years slow-pitch, one year of fast-pitch). She also served as a student assistant coach in volleyball and women’s basketball during her senior season of 1984-85. But the standards expected by today’s women’s athletes were far from established in those early days.
“Mr. Tribbett was our head volleyball coach but he didn’t know much about volleyball,” Hall remembered. “He was actually the men’s assistant basketball coach. Only a few of my teammates had played competitively in high school. Most players were there just for fun. We traveled in a very old van that wasn’t in the best of shape.
“Softball was in a similar situation as volleyball. I had only played fast pitch in high school so playing slow pitch was disappointing to me. But Coach Tribbett told us that things were going to be different soon because he was working hard to recruit some good players and bring in some good coaches to give the teams some direction.”
The teams did gradually improve, but the road was occasionally bumpy. As with any young, developing program, players often came and went on a yearly basis. A revolving door of players made it hard to promote stability. At that time, TU offered mostly accounting and business majors, not courses that attracted a high amount of female interest. TU didn’t have their own athletic facilities, using area elementary or high school gyms for home games. The women’s programs had to battle tooth and nail with the already established and growing men’s programs for what resources there were.
“I remember always hearing that President Kidd’s vision for the university was that we would have strong programs in men’s and women’s athletics. It seemed highly unlikely to me considering that we did not even have a women’s basketball team. Then I started to hear rumors that TU wanted to start a football program. To me that seemed like a death sentence for the women’s programs. I thought we would never get any money for anything if they started spending on football,” Hall said.
But before football started with a junior varsity season in 1985, women’s basketball was started in 1984. Under the direction of coach Jeanne Raudensky, the program started to make its mark in short order.
“Coach Raudensky was determined to put a competitive team together and I think by her third season the program had a winning season. I give her a lot of credit. She came from Slippery Rock and I am sure there were many times she wondered how she ended up at TU. She coached all three women’s sports my senior year. I was her student assistant coach for volleyball and basketball and John Millar, Dean of Students, helped with softball. Coach Raudensky was very tough and sometimes pushed you to your limits but I think it was her toughness that was needed in those early years. Just like my sister Diane Kline when she coached the volleyball team, she was the coach, sole recruiter, van driver and program administrator. You would not put yourself through that if it was not for the love of sports and caring about the student athletes. Many times I witnessed her going head to head with the Athletic Director or the men’s basketball coach, fighting for resources for the women’s programs,” Hall said.
But that’s the way it was in the early days of women’s athletics at Tiffin University, as with many other universities dealing with the rapid expansion of women’s sports around the country. Even with the occasional hardships, Hall does not regret her decision to come to TU and get involved, fondly remembering the many good experiences she had. One thing that Hall knows for sure, however, is that many of today’s athletes have no idea what it was like for those early women’s athletes.
“I have to admit I get a little envious of the athletes at TU today. They have top notch facilities, the best equipment, new uniforms and practice attire. The head coaches all have assistant coaches and everything is much more equal between the men’s and women’s programs. They also get to travel in style. Whenever I hear an athlete complain about something at TU, I want to tell them what it was like when I played. I just smile and listen and think they are very lucky that people like Jim Tribbett, Jeanne Raudensky and others worked at TU and laid the foundation for the women’s programs . They wouldn’t have it so nice if it wasn’t for Title IX, the hard work of these individuals, and the vision of George Kidd.”