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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Architecture and Societal Gender Presentation Post Title IX

The old Spanish-style building had sported individual tiles, each of which depicted a different icon of classic athletic performance… I am sure few people even thought to notice that every single one of the athletes depicted on these beautiful tiles was a man. But in 1999 when they were building the new gym somebody did notice…[So] side by side, with the old tiles on the façade of the new gym […] new ones depicted women athletes hurdling, playing basketball and soccer. The gender symmetry depicted on the tiles of the new gym represents a dramatic shift toward and acceptance - even a symbolic celebration - of girls’ and women’s presence in sports.

One of the most notable impacts of Title IX was the introduction of equal athletic facilities. Previously, in many arenas the women’s and men’s programs would share, however, there needed to be design changes. Messner’s colorful description of how the tiles symbolize a change in cultural positioning is a perfect lens of how architecture reflects society. Though many institutions have made this distinction, there seems to be a difference in the facilities. They are separate but are equal only to a point.

The movie Love and Basketball depicts the USC men’s program performing in a packed facility equivalent to a professional arena whilst the women’s arena, also sold out, resembles the same small gym the heroine Monica played in during her high school career. Men’s programs usually have a practice gym as well as a larger game arena. Both are usually very guarded and inaccessible. The ladies gym, singular, usually is easily accessible and is rarely watched when not being used. Historically, many women athletes were glad to have a facility at all. This wish is addressed in everything from décor to nomenclature.

In the additions of tiles depicting women, women’s locker rooms, and athletic venues that have been transformed from boxy warehouse structures resembling barns to those replicating the coliseums of competition found in ancient Greece, we find a rebirth in the art of the stadium. Now, we see the pictures and jerseys of women athletes hanging from the rafters of these very stadiums. The prominent banners reading “Women’s Lacrosse National Champions” and “Lady Panthers 2006 Regional Champions” are simple statements that bring to the forefront the presence and newfound permanence of women athletics in the everyday life of our culture.

These symbols of permanence transcend the norm at institutions like the University of Tennessee, where the perennial powerhouse Lady Vol basketball program is the symbol for basketball in the Volunteer State. The Orange jerseys of the Tennessee women’s basketball uniforms can be seen in stadium crowds on televisions during any given time of the year. More amazing is that there is no question that when sports at UT are mentioned, including the year the UT’s football team won the National Championship, the Lady Vol’s program and Coach Pat Summit are spoken of first. Women’s basketball transcends men’s football.

On March 22, 2005 Pat Summit surpassed Dean Smith for the most wins of all time in Division I basketball. After the game, it was announced that the court where university of Tennessee basketball is played would be named “the Summit.” The floor where men and women play serves as a permanent reminder of one of the greatest coaches in college basketball. This is undeniably an end product of the opportunity provided, if only in part, by Title IX.


Gavora, J. (2001). Tilting the playing field: School, sports, sex and Title IX. Encounter: San Francisco

Lorber, J. (2001). Gender Inequality. Roxbury: Los Angeles.

Messner, M. (2002). Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports. Univ. of Minnesota: Minnesota.

Valentin, I., (1997) Title IX: A Brief History. Women’s Educational Equity Act Resource Center.

Love and Basketball. New Line Cinema (2001).

Breakin’ the Glass: The American Basketball League 1996-1998. Leach, M. & Munch, D. (2000). Imotion Video.