Outlining ‘The Power of IX’


ESPN, as part of its threemonth,
multiplatform initiative,
“The Power of IX,” celebrating the
40th anniversary of Title IX, will reveal
the top 40 female athletes of the
past 40 years.

Beginning today (April 30),
the weekday 10 a.m. editions of
SportsCenter, in conjunction with espnW,
the worldwide leader’s distaff
destination, will begin counting down
“Top 40 Female Athletes of the Past 40
Years,” as determined by a panel of
experts. Introduced by SportsCenter
anchor Hannah Storm, the vignettes
comprise footage and/or still action
photos, along with video from past
or present coaches, teammates or a
respected authority from within the
women’s sports world.

Title IX is shorthand for 1972
legislation that mandated gender
equity in any educational program (not only, but
including, sports) that receives federal funding.


SportsCenter will unveil each female athlete during
the 10 a.m. weekday edition for the first six weeks. The
top 10 will be revealed June 11 through 22, during the
11 p.m. weeknight editions of the flagship show.

The full Power of IX game plan encompasses an
array of ESPN vehicles, and culminates on the June
23 anniversary date, when ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPNU,
ESPN Classic and broadband service ESPN3
will showcase a variety of live-event and women’s
archival programming. Julie Foudy will serve as host.

“The impact of Title IX legislation on girls, women and
society is irrefutable,” Laura Gentile, vice president of
espnW, said. “You can tell by just the sheer number of
participants in high school and college. This milestone
is a big event in the sporting world.
Who better to tell the story than

Indeed, only one of 25 girls —
some 294,000 — played high-school
sports in 1972. Last year, the ratio
was one in three for a total of 3.17

That tally doesn’t speak to the
scholastic, familial and community
support around those participants,
the increased number of distaff athletes
at the collegiate level and how,
in many cases, the transformative
legislation has resulted in the rollback
or elimination of men’s teams.

Of course, many athletes who
benefited from Title IX and its effects
have graduated into the professional
ranks. Gentile said that in the
planning for espnW, which officially
launched at espnw.com on April 26,
2011, the upcoming milestone was
clearly in mind.

“As we evolved espnW, we knew going in that the 40th
anniversary of Title IX would be an important component
for us. Then we had meetings last September and
October with [ESPN president] John Skipper who said,
‘We should really get behind this as a company.’ ”

In addition to the vignettes, March 26 saw the bow
of http://espn.go.com/espnw/title-ix/, a dedicated microsite
housing content across multiple platforms
with a mix of in-depth feature stories,
first-person athlete perspectives, as well
as a series of fun/informative lists of nine
and more.

One of the June issues of ESPN the Magazine
will take a deep dive into the future of
women’s sports, while a social-media program
is engaged in assembling the largest
collection of user-submitted female athlete
photos of all time into a gigantic mosaic.

In spring and summer 2013, ESPN Films
will launch a series of documentaries, “9 For
IX,” executive-produced by Good Morning
anchor Robin Roberts and Tribeca
Productions co-founder Jane Rosenthal.


As to the “Top 40 Female Athletes of Past
40 Years” countdown, Gentile said the
panel of 24 experts, including sportswriter
Christine Brennan, ESPN basketball
analyst Doris Burke and Donna Lopiano,
the former longtime CEO of The Women’s
Sports Foundation, spent the better course
of a month vetting the distaff athletic horizon
over the past two generations.

“We thought they would get it done in
a week, but the group was really thorough.
They studied the backgrounds,
they really did their homework,” Gentile
said of the process in which the group tallied their
ballots separately. “It speaks to the caliber of the athletes
that Mary Lou Retton, Diana Taurasi and Abby
Wambach are only in the 31-40 group.”


ESPN released the initial members of its “Top 40 Female Athletes of
The Past 40 Years,” Nos. 31-40 (listed alphabetically):

Joan Benoit (track): First women’s Olympic marathon champion

Cammi Granato (ice hockey): 1998 Olympic Gold Medalist /
2002 Olympic Silver Medalist

Flo Hyman (volleyball):
USA Volleyball MVP 1978 – 2002; 1984
Olympic Silver Medalist

Julie Krone (horse racing): First female jockey to win a Triple
Crown race

Kristine Lilly (soccer): Three-time Olympian with two gold medals
(1996, 2004)

Mary Meagher (swimming): Two gold medals in 1984 Olympics

Fu Mingxia (diving): Quadruple Olympic-diving champion and
world champion

Mary Lou Retton (gymnastics): Won the Olympic all-around
title (1984), scoring perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault

Diana Taurasi (basketball): Three-time collegiate national and
two-time WNBA champion

Abby Wambach (soccer): 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist; threetime