Former coach Cheryl Burnett stopped by Loyola Marymount University Wednesday to deliver a potent message to student athletes about the impact of Title Nine on their lives.
Burnett was fresh off of a weekend where her jersey was retired at Missouri State, where she successfully coached from 1987-2002. She told LMU athletes, including the women’s basketball team, about the struggles she and her peers had gone through before the legislation was passed in 1972.
“The beauty of Title Nine is that everyone can live their dream,” Burnett said. “Be thankful for your opportunities. The challenge is not over – it’s still here.”
During her tenure at MSU, Burnett accumulated 319 wins while taking her teams to ten NCAA appearances, including trips to the Final Four in 1992 and 2001. Current LMU Coach Charity Elliott was on the 1992 team, and assistant coach Jackie Stiles was part of the 2001 squad.
In introducing her former coach, Elliott recalled how game attendance grew exponentially during her years at MSU. She joked that to this day, when she hears a whistle, she thinks of Burnett’s eyes.
“I instinctively start denying a pass,” Elliott said, to laughs around the room.
Burnett provided a framework for understanding the importance of Title Nine to athletes, who were born around 20 years after it took effect. She cited examples of discrepancies, such as tennis great Billie Jean King having to work her way through college, while Arthur Ashe was given a scholarship.
Burnett recalled how her mother had to start a petition so her daughter could play high school basketball, and how Missouri State was the first women’s basketball team to have a game broadcast on ESPN – and how they were told it would air at midnight.
Perhaps the most touching account was Burnett having to convince a Missouri State graduate that she had indeed been an athlete in the 1950’s, when women were only allowed to play on Saturdays.
“Even today, you have to help yourself,” Burnett said. “Find a way to get what you need for your program. Don’t wait for others to help you. Do what you can and get out into your community.”
Elliott took over the LMU program this season, and Stiles moved to Los Angeles from Missouri to join her on staff. Also in attendance Wednesday was Santa Clara’s team, in town to play the Lions the next night. Prior to Thursday’s game, Burnett was honored courtside as part of a Title Nine celebration