Women’s College Basketball During the Blaze Era

By Keith Saliski and Christian Guaman, Contributing Writers

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Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Falkenheim Blaze during a game in 1975 (Left picture) by Lonny Cohen | The Montclarion Carol Blazejowski at Commencement. (Right Picture) Photo Courtesy of Mike Peters.
Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Falkenheim
Blaze during a game in 1975 (Left picture)
Photo Courtesy of Lonny Cohen | The Montclarion
Carol Blazejowski at Commencement (Right Picture)
Photo Courtesy of Mike Peters

In the 1970s women’s college basketball was a very different game than what it is today. Modern-day viewers are used to big time programs from big time conferences dominating the basketball landscape, but in the 1970s this wasn’t the case. The game was dominated by such small schools, like Immaculata College, Queens College, Wayland Baptist University and Delta State University.

These schools today are classified as divisions 2 and 3, a far cry of what’s seen on television nowadays. When watching the game today, one might not think that at one point in time women played six-on-six, as opposed to the five-on-five of the modern game.

Perhaps the most important breakthrough for women’s college basketball, and women’s college sports in general, was the passage of Title IX in 1972. It stated that no person based on their sex shall be discriminated against in participating in any educational program or activity receiving federal assistance. This allowed more women to go from high school to college teams, as opposed to coming from high school straight to a traveling team.

In 1975 the first national exposure for women’s basketball was between Maryland and Immaculata, and it became the first women’s basketball game to be televised nationally. Also, in 1975, Immaculata College and Queens College were the first women’s basketball teams to play a game at Madison Square Garden, with an attendance of approximately 12,000 fans.

In 1976, the USA women’s team made its first appearance in the Olympics, hosted in Canada. The team, which consisted of only college players, achieved the first Olympic medal in women’s basketball. That team is accountable for all the success that women’s basketball has had since. That was the beginning of a prosperous era for the basketball team.

On March 6, 1977, Carol Blazejowski set the record for points made for male or female with 52 points scored. Luisa Harris of Delta University was also awarded the first Broderick Cup as the most outstanding athlete in the AIAW in 1977.

In 1978, the formation of the women’s professional basketball league became a reality. The league consisted of eight teams. The Chicago Hustle and Milwaukee Does played the very first game in the Women’s Professional Basketball League.

During the three years that the league lasted, the teams crowned as champions were the Houston Angels in 1979, the New York Stars in 1980 and the Nebraska Wranglers in 1981.

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