Tiffin University started to implement Title IX initiatives gradually throughout the 1980s, adding volleyball in 1981 and slow pitch softball in 1982. Women’s basketball would not come until the 1984-85 season.
For Tiffin University alum Jane Winters Bickley, the expansion of the women’s athletics programs led her back to college, where she proceeded to compete for four different athletic programs in her three seasons, including one season with the men’s tennis team.
“I really enjoyed playing tennis and we had a young tennis program,” Bickley recalled. “(Volleyball coach) Bonnie Tiell suggested I play for the men’s team since I was finishing my senior season and wanted to play. We didn’t have a women’s tennis program yet, so I played with the men’s squad at 5th and 6th singles and also 1st doubles.”
Bickley was one of the more versatile athletes to play for TU. She made her biggest mark playing volleyball from 1988-89, earning All-District honors along with two All-Conference citations while leading TU to a 54-29 record over those two seasons. TU established a strong NAIA program during that period, setting a then-record with a 31-15 record in 1989.
Bickley also played women’s basketball in 1990-91, appearing in 27 games as a 6-0 center and averaging 7 ppg. She also competed for one season in softball. The opportunity that Title IX gave her to compete ultimately brought her back to college.
“I had graduated high school in 1983 and spent two years at Sinclair Community College,” Bickley said. “I then took a couple years off but when I found out that Tiffin had started to add all these new women’s athletics programs, that got me interested again. I loved sports and now I had the chance to play a variety of them at the collegiate level. Women’s athletes didn’t have that chance before, and all of a sudden we did.”
“I think that having a female playing tennis on the men’s squad sent a message that there was definite interest in adding women’s tennis to the athletic program,” Bickley said. “There were numerous multi-sport women’s athletes on those teams back then, because we were all trying to take advantage of these new opportunities.”