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Maria Stack believes she would have been unable to afford to go college if it weren’t for Title IX.
The 1980 Indiana Miss Basketball from Columbus East played at three colleges, earning scholarships along the way. But that was several years after her parents filed suit to allow girls basketball in Columbus elementary schools.
“When I was in fifth grade, there was not girls basketball,” Stack said. “When I went to play for the boys team, I was denied.”
Stack, who became the first girl to play Little League Baseball in Columbus as a 10-year-old in 1972, played basketball at Southside Junior High. At the time, the school played only Northside and Central and didn’t travel outside Columbus like their male counterparts.
Along with classmates Lisa Ritzline and Kris Hagemier, Stack led the Olympi-Annes, as they were then called, to sectional and regional titles as a junior in 1979. As seniors in 1980, they made it all the way to the state championship game.
“Going into high school, it was an easier transition because all three of us were together,” Stack said.
Because of her size (5-foot-5), Stack wasn’t heavily recruited and began her college career at Otero Junior College in California. She moved on to San Diego State University before finishing her career at Gonzaga University. She finished her degree in general studies at Indiana University.
“Growing up I heard from people, ‘You’re so lucky. I never had that opportunity,’ so I never took anything for granted,” Stack said. “Athletics teaches you more about life — work hard and be dedicated. I have that competitive spirit in me still, at work or playing games.”
At least two other local women parlayed college playing experiences into future coaching and athletic director endeavors.
Hedy George spent 15 years as Columbus North’s girls basketball coach, 18 years as the school’s assistant athletic director and 10 years as athletic director. Ann Rottinghaus coached volleyball for 17 years and girls track for two years at Central Middle School before spending seven years as Central’s athletic director.
George went to Columbus High School before it split into two schools and went on to play basketball at the University of Kentucky when the program was under the auspices of campus recreation.
Rottinghaus played volleyball, basketball and track when they were Girls Athletic Association sports and was a cheerleader at Brookville High School (now Franklin County High School). She played on the first IU women’s volleyball team before it became an intercollegiate sport her junior year in 1970-71.
“I came from a high school where there were no (girls) high school sports at all,” Rottinghaus said. “Now, not only do they play other schools, they go out of state sometimes. Plus, you have all the opportunities for girls sports, as far as scholarships are concerned, in every sport.
“I think high school, even middle school coaches are very aware of highly-talented girls and the fact that they can get a full-ride scholarship to play somewhere if they’re good enough by the time they reach their sophomore, junior, senior year of high school.”
Charlie Roush, who spent 31 years as Central’s athletic director, thinks the quality of girls sports has come a long way over the past 40 years.
“Girls in basketball, and probably in volleyball, too, were really weak in fundamentals,” Roush said. “That improved over the years, probably because of camps and things like that.
“In girls basketball, if a team pressed, that really made it difficult because to begin with, girls just didn’t have the fundamentals,” he added. “That made a lot of unequal games in basketball. I think girls started doing a lot more physical things along the way. They got stronger.”
“It’s hugely different now, thankfully,” George said. “There’s a huge difference in obvious skill level, better coaching. There’s more opportunities for girls to improve through camps and clinics. Not all coaches embrace the (Amateur Athletic Union), but there is AAU basketball. The general attitude that the public has of girls in sports now has changed in a positive manner.”
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