UO Athletics: Women’s Basketball

We will be cheering on the UO women’s basketball team as they compete in this weekend’s NCAA Division I Championship.  Led by record-setting junior Sabrina Ionescu, the team reached the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history. Read more about this historic accomplishment in a recent article on Around the O.

Sabrina Ionescu and head coach Kelly Graves, 2019
[Paul Harvey IV, UO Athletics Photographs, UP_WBB_20190106_28]
The history of UO women’s basketball extends back to the 1894-1895 school year, when students competed infrequently on interclass teams.

Sophomore class team, 1894-1895
[UO Athletics Photographs, A_ATHBBW_1890_1910_0002jc]

The formation of the Women’s Athletic Association in 1913 provided organized opportunities for students to engage in athletic competitions at the interclass, intersorority, intramural and varsity levels. For example, in 1920, there was an interclass basketball game to fundraise for Gerlinger Hall, a building to be dedicated space for women’s physical education. The 1922 Oregana recounts when the varsity team met the team from OAC (Oregon State University), and won with a score of 27-19.  Charlotte Howells, a junior, played forward in the game.  Her yearbook profile states that “when it comes to running up basketball scores — she is the despair of opposing teams” (p. 106). In the interclass championship of the same year, the seniors beat the juniors in overtime and earned their name engraved on the Hayward Cup.  Despite the loss, junior Helen McCormick’s skill did not go unnoticed. The yearbook staff said McCormick “flings a wicked shoulder when it comes to basketball” (p. 115).

Class of 1923
[UO Athletics Photographs, A_ATHBBW_1920s_0004jc]
The Women’s Recreation Association (WRA), created in 1951, served as the successor of the Women’s Athletic Association. In 1966, the Northwest College Women’s Extramural Association (NCWEA) provided standardization for women’s regional intercollegiate contests, and the 1971 formation of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) created framework for national championships. Women’s basketball games were held in Gerlinger Gymnasium and in Gerlinger Annex.

Game at Gerlinger, 1970s
[UA Ref 3, University Archives Photographs, UARef3_b010_f005_075]
After the passage of Title IX in 1972, the opportunities for women’s athletic grew under the leadership of Becky Sisley (Women’s Athletic Director).  In 1973, the Women’s Intercollegiate Association (WIA) was formed as a separate entity from the WRA. Beginning with Jane Spearing, 7 coaches progressively led the team to conference, regional and national successes. The program took flight with players such as Bev Smith, Debbie Adams, Alison Lang, and Jenny Mowe. During that time span, women’s basketball moved to McArthur Court, and subsequently to Matthew Knight Arena in 2011. In the ensuing years, fans steadily cheered on the growth of a formidable and competitive program.

Bev Smith (#24) and Alison Lang (#52), 1981
[Brent Wohjahn, UO Athletics Photographs, A_ATHBBW_1980s_1990s_0020jc]
Our department has several collections with materials about women’s basketball, including

Audiovisual materials:

If you are interested in doing research, contact Lauren Goss at lgoss5@uoregon.edu

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