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Viewpoint | As Caitlin Clark breaks all records, the NCAA can correct its own


The NCAA sorely needs a victory, and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is trying to get one, if the hole-dwelling gollums who run the record books will even get their hands on one. Tickets to see Clark’s final regular season college game have cost as much as $877, which almost seems worth it to witness the shot she wields with such a mixture of sting and languor. The NCAA should honor the architects of this coup, recognize those who built its burgeoning game, and stop claiming false credit.

It’s fun to experience a historical phenomenon, isn’t it? Witness a performance so aerodynamic that it demonstrates lasting cultural momentum. This is what Clark accomplishes, as she Closes in on Pete Maravich’s NCAA Division I points record with its three-point logo, the whole thing gathered tension then flowed freely and ruffled the net. But Clark’s performances could not be achieved without the elevations of the past, and especially without the confident 62-year-old coach, Lisa Bluder, one of the original pioneers of women’s football.

Bluder kept Clark’s head and body so straight against double teams and jersey grabs all year, so consistent in alignment, feet, hips, elbows, wrists and flow.

Yet NCAA record holders I don’t recognize that women’s basketball exists before taking over the game in the 1980s. Exactly When do they think women acquired their knowledge of the game? Online seminars?

“For whatever reason, the NCAA doesn’t want to recognize basketball played before 1982, and that’s wrong,” Bluder said this week, after Clark surpassed what Bluder called “the real record.” for women’s major college scores. This was settled by sweeter than licorice Lynette Woodard at Kansas from 1978 to 1981under the AIAW, before the NCAA bothered to bother.

“We were playing basketball back then,” Bluder added. “They just don’t want to acknowledge it. It hurts the rest of us who were playing at the time.

Correcting the facts should be the easiest thing in the world. The NCAA can use some goodwill to break its cycle of disaster. He should reconsider his position and organize a ceremony during the next Final Four to pay tribute to the fall of the “real record”. These pre-1982 generations of women formed the AIAW only because the NCAA did everything it could to thwart, suppress, and starve them. Rectify the past and give credit where it is deserved – to the people who gave such a gift to the NCAA, to the polished, grassroots generation of players exemplified by Clark.

“We don’t talk about it enough” observed ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, a transformative player in her era, on X. “The NCAA should not only recognize the records, but also embrace the AIAW era. This is part of the history of women’s basketball (and it’s the right thing to do.).”

Instead, it’s up to Clark herself to pay tribute. She went out of her way to talk about Woodard and the AIAW after scoring 33 against Minnesota to pass Woodward this week. “I think it’s just a testament to the foundation that these players have laid for us to have the opportunity to play in environments like this, in front of crowds like this,” Clark said.

The undergraduate showed a better sense of gratitude and history than any NCAA overlord.

The force of Bluder’s remarks on the subject is an indication of the passion she and her fellow coaches feel about how the NCAA has erased and ruined their personal pasts by stubbornly clinging to its odd line in sand. These women did not have “coaching trees.” No mentors. They learned the game from the start as AIAW players, and they took the strategy from stolen men’s training manuals and manuals and translated it as best they could to each other .

There won’t be a coach or player in this Final Four who hasn’t been shaped, influenced or touched in some way by the AIAW years. Bluder was a three-year starter at Northern Iowa, from 1979 to 1983, after which she took a job in the small town of St. Ambrose. She learned to coach by spending her summers working at the basketball camps of C. Vivian Stringer, who made Cheyney State an AIAW powerhouse. The formative years of Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, the leader in career victorieswere a goalie from 1973 to 1975 at Indiana, where she reached an AIAW Final Four, and between her own practices, she watched the Bob Knight show from the stands and drew plays in her notebook.

Then there was one Kim Mulkey, who, with a braid like a whip, led Louisiana Tech to a 130-6 record and won two national championships: an AIAW title in 1981 and the inaugural title of the NCAA in 1982, after the men executed a hostile takeover of the game, once they saw it, had become a televisable entity on NBC. Mulkey is the only person in the history of college basketball – men’s or women’s – to win nattys as a head coach, assistant coach and player. But go ahead and erase half of her collegiate accomplishments, simply because she didn’t play all four years under the correct “governance” body.

The list is lengthened increasingly. Forget the AIAW, and here comes Debbie Ryan, who went almost directly from her point guard career at Ursinus to a head coaching job at Virginia in 1977, where she simply did the following: In 1981, she gave a promising young man. named Geno Auriemma as an assistant coach, then mentored a point guard named Dawn Staley.

The AIAW was simply the result of forced scarcity. That’s all it was. Its members lived on the same campuses, played on the same floors and shot the same ball as their NCAA male counterparts. “Maybe the NCAA will realize this now,” Bluder said. “Maybe this will be brought to their attention and they will start to recognize the women who played in the 70s.”

Perhaps this will be another of Clark’s lasting contributions to the record books. She not only represents the new standard of the game, but she also shined a light on many past careers and standards, from Woodard to Maravich to Bluder. Debates about sports records can become reductive, trashy barroom arguments, but Clark’s senior season seemed like a pleasantly ongoing tribute to the history of hoops.

The NCAA’s old guard is still fighting late. He struggles to deal with attacks on the courts only after someone gets hurt. He only recognizes NIL rights after being repeatedly defeated in court. He spends more effort preserving bad things than doing good things, especially in her chronic mistreatment of women’s basketball. This is an opportunity for the NCAA, for once, to get in tune with the flow of history.


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