University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Title IX and The Tucker Center

The Tucker Center has a history of women & sports, both before and after it was created.

Left: Dorothy McNeill Tucker.
Right: Nicole LaVoi.
Photo credit: Rik Sferra (Tucker) and Löle Twin Cities(LaVoi)

Dorothy McNeill Tucker (B.S. ’45) started at the U of M in 1941, when many young men were off fighting in World War II. During her years at the University, she became the president of the Panhellenic Association sorority group, was a member of the yearbook staff, and played intramural volleyball and basketball. After graduation, she earned a doctorate in physical education at UCLA and went on to become the first tenured woman on the faculty at California State Polytechnic University. She died in 2017 at the age of 93.

In 1993, Tucker made a $1 million gift to the U of M that was used to help start the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at her alma mater. “Anybody can endow a chair in economics or psychology; all universities have those. But I walk to a different drummer and I wanted my gift to have impact,” she told the Star Tribune at the time. Tucker made a second $1 million gift in 2001. Founded 20 years after Title IX became law, the Tucker Center’s first director was Mary Jo Kane, who is now professor emerita in sport sociology.

“The Tucker Center is a product of Title IX,” says Nicole LaVoi (M.A. ’95, Ph.D. ’02), the center’s current director, who took over for Kane in 2019. She says her path to her current job is the result of being able to play sports, first in high school, then in college, and finally as a college tennis coach.

Today, the Tucker Center is recognized internationally for its research on women’s participation in sports, both on the field and in coaching. “There are record numbers of girls and women playing sports at all levels,” LaVoi says. “However, there is still a quite large gender participation gap between girls and women, and boys and men. What that means is that girls and women are denied the opportunity to play sports and reap all the positive developmental and health and social benefits that come from playing sports.”

That gap extends to coaching. The Center’s Women Coaches Research Series & Annual Report Card tracks these trends. In 1974, 90 percent of women’s collegiate sports were coached by women; today that number is less than 40 percent.

The Report Card, which is produced in collaboration with the WeCOACH women coaches’ association, grades institutions by the percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams. In 2020-2021, the U of M received a “B,” meaning that between 55 and 69 percent of women’s teams have a female head coach.

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