I attended my first college volleyball match last Sunday afternoon and was deeply impressed by the speed, power, and general athleticism of these young women. It was a great match, back and forth, between two very high level teams and really exciting to watch.
By coincidence just a couple of weeks ago I was asked to figure out the exact date of the genesis of Rice’s intercollegiate volleyball program. I found the answer in this three-fold brochure, preserved by sheer chance in a folder that’s part of the massive Athletics Collection. (Really, I can’t stress enough how unlikely it is that this still exists. There is nothing else at all about volleyball in the records from this time period.)
Inside is an interesting snapshot of a moment of cultural change at Rice. And to my specific task, the Capsule Outlook suggests that the beginning of intercollegiate volleyball competition at Rice dates to 1973, making next year the 50th anniversary:
Bonus: PE instructor Hally Beth Poindexter with the 1950 intramural volleyball champions.
Extra Bonus: I can never be sad about a Rice win, but I also can’t help loving my Creighton Bluejays. There was amazing Creighton fan support too, a bit surprising so far from home, but explained partly by the fact that one of our players has roots in Texas City.
Page 2 of the Nov. 8, 1973, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/66644/thr19731108.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y) had this letter to the editor from two volleyball team members regarding Rice’s initial foray into women’s “extramural” athletics:
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We feel that there is a tremendous lack of respect accorded the women’s extramural athletic program at Rice, and the time has come to do something about it. Due to the condescending attitude of the athletic department towards women’s sports, the University has left undeveloped some great potential.
The men’s athletic program (extramural), consisting of eight sports, has a budget of over $1,400,000; women’s athletics, with three teams, is supposed to operate on a budget of $500. This is disproportionate to both the number of women attending the University and to the number of interested students. None of the money is for scholarships (obviously), yet over thirty people came out for volleyball alone. Interest is not lacking. Because of insufficient equipment (5 balls, 1 court), coaching (1 unpaid coach and 1 unpaid advising coach, neither of whom were relieved of other duties that they might have more time to coach), funds (transportation was provided courtesy of players and coach), and, most importantly, the support of the athletic department, the team finished the season with only eight players.
Now that volleyball is over, most of the budget has been spent and there will probably be no basketball or tennis teams this year, although many fine players are available. This University needs the women’s program; will anyone try to support it?
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is now beginning to investigate women’s athletic programs across the nation. Hopefully, they will investigate the program at Rice before it is crushed into nonexistence.
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I looked at earlier Threshers through the beginning of the Fall 1973 semester, and found no other mention of women’s athletics or volleyball. There were no mentions of games, scores, nor the call that attracted those 30 initially interested players.
FTR, Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments on June 23, 1972.
Does anybody know why female volleyball players traditionally wear short shorts?
We played a significant amount of intramural VB in the late 70’s (My GPA is a great example) I loved my co-ed team and the women’s teams I coached (almanac evidenced) Good times!
I came across this article while looking up this year’s team to find out how their end of season is going. My name is Teresa Escobar Fisher and I was one of the two who wrote the letter to the editor that you have in this article. This was really fun to read, and to reminisce about those great four years at Rice! I have some great pics that were in the Sallyport during that fall of 1973, which was my freshman year, and the first year Rice offered the varsity teams. Feel free to contact me if you want any more information, especially as we head into that 50 year anniversary!
Thank you for covering this!