Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Health and Sport Studies

First Advisor

Birrell, Susan

First Committee Member

Birrell, Susan

Second Committee Member

Oates, Thomas

Third Committee Member

Ogren, Christine

Fourth Committee Member

Parratt, Catriona

Fifth Committee Member

Slatton, Yvonne


In 1971, female professional physical educators in higher education formed the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) to govern women's college athletics. The AIAW presidents gathered at the University of Iowa in July 1980 for a five-day conference: "AIAW . . . A Decade of Progress: Presidential Review" to create a "living history" of their Association. This qualitative research project uses a critical feminist cultural studies approach to analyze the Presidential Review, a primary source that has never been studied in its entirety. At the Review, the presidents offered insights on their pathways to sport leadership, explained how they understood and lived out the AIAW's philosophy and key principles, and described how they faced constant crisis management during their presidencies. Their journeys to leadership in women's athletics featured both blatant discrimination and transformative opportunities that furthered their understanding of sexism in the patriarchal sport domain and kindled their desire to provide meaningful movement opportunities for girls and women. The presidents carried out this goal through a philosophy they collectively affirmed at the Review: the purpose of athletics is to enrich the lives of participants. Through a democratic and inclusive annual Delegate Assembly, the presidents debated extensively to establish principles such as due process and student representation in their governance structure to ensure the Association's central focus on student welfare. As they developed their alternative model of athletics, the AIAW presidents faced constant crises during their Association's brief existence (1971-82). They confronted lack of awareness and misconceptions about their philosophy, and their most formidable crisis was the threat of the NCAA starting women's programs--a "unilateral takeover" that resulted in the demise of the AIAW. The presidents portrayed the AIAW history as a "saga of power, money, and sex" that involved an intense struggle with the NCAA in which they encountered much resistance to their entry into intercollegiate athletics. Through their involvement in the Review, the presidents contributed dynamic insiders' perspectives on significant circumstances and events that occurred during their leadership years. These serve as an important contribution to the sparse written history of the AIAW.


AIAW, athletics, college, sports, women


vii, 204 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 199-204).


Copyright 2013 Amy Sue Wilson