At the time, Jane Stratton didn’t realize she was making history. There was no fanfare and no press conference when the tennis star became the first woman to ever receive an athletics scholarship from the U.
It was the mid-1970s, and Title IX, the law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs, was still in its infancy. The historic scholarship to Stratton came about after a conversation between Irv Stratton, Jane’s father, and then-Utah Athletics Director Bud Jack about scholarships. His daughter, after all, certainly had the credentials—the Highland High graduate was ranked No. 1 in the nation in doubles and fifth in singles.
“I don’t know why Jane doesn’t get a scholarship, because she has accomplished way more than any of the men,” Irv said to Jack. He agreed with the reasoning, and the tennis star was given a scholarship.
Following collegiate success, Stratton turned pro and went on to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals twice.
Other women’s sports teams incrementally became part of Utah’s Athletics department as scholarship programs when funds became available to elevate them to sufficient levels. The programs include basketball (1974); volleyball (1975); gymnastics, skiing, and softball (1976); cross country/track (1981); swimming and diving (1982); soccer (1995); and beach volleyball (2017). In 2020-21, the university had 229 female athletes. That includes 192 on full or partial scholarships.
“Significant gains have been made, but it’s important, as we reflect on the past 50 years, that we remain mindful of the work that remains ahead of us to enhance and improve opportunities for women in sports,” says Mark Harlan, U Athletics director.