Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Forty years after Title IX became law, Granbury’s Leta Andrews continues to fight for equity in girls sports
GRANBURY, Texas — High school basketball coaches in freshly reminted District 7-4A gathered in March to renew acquaintances and plan for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
When the subject of scheduling came up, it was presented as scripture that boys’ home games for the six Fort Worth schools would be played at either 5,000-seat Wilkerson Greines Activity Center or 3,500-seat Billingsley Field House, the finest facilities the district has to offer. Girls’ home games would be relegated to the schools’ antiquated gyms.
Taj Mahals for the boys. Bandboxes for the girls.
That was the take of Leta Andrews. Her girls from Granbury High, 30 miles to the south, had been placed with the Fort Worth schools.
This stinks, thought the winningest coach at the meeting. Andrews’ résumé includes 1,375 victories, more than anyone else in that room and any other coach in the state of Texas. And, for that matter, any other coach in the history of high school basketball in the entire United States.
“Excuse me,” said the 74-year-old grandmother, raising her hand and then her voice to make sure she had the attention of everyone in the room. “Would this be a Title IX issue?” she asked.
The ensuing silence was deafening.
At least one other coach in the room — a boys coach — shook his head from side to side. “There goes Leta fussin’ again,” he recalled thinking. The coach asked that his name not be used lest it be perceived he was insulting a colleague already inducted into three Halls of Fame and honored for lifetime achievement by the granddaddy of them all, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Andrews, however, wasn’t simply fussin’. She was downright furious. She hadn’t spent 50 years in the girls’ game to once again have girls relegated in 2012 to what she believed was second-class status. She already had experienced it. She would have none of it again.
Andrews had coached a decade before Title IX became a law of the land 40 years ago this month. Certainly Title IX, best known for providing gender equity at schools receiving federal funding, doesn’t carry the gravitas of the Emancipation Proclamation. But for generations of females, athletes prominently among them, it has prompted a degree of fairness.
“To me, Title IX removed all stopping blocks for girls and women hoping to reach the same athletics utopia as men,” Andrews said. “I don’t see the fairness here.”
Her protest had impact. The meeting adjourned with no scheduling decision in place. District 7-4A has yet to distribute a master schedule to its eight member schools, which include Granbury and Aledo as well as the Forth Worth schools. Never before, Andrews said, has she not had a schedule by this time of year.
Kevin Greene, athletic director for the Forth Worth school district, said the boy-girl gym divide has been “tradition.”
“We’re not going to tell the folks in Granbury where they are going to play their home games, and we aren’t going to let them tell us where ours will be played,” he said.
“But we have been taking our time to be fair to everybody,” he acknowledged. “When … [the schedules] do come out, I think Leta will see we have tried to accommodate her needs.”
If Texas has a history of being more accommodating to women’s athletics than most, it may be because of good old-fashioned farm sweat.
In rural Texas, girls and boys often toiled side by side on their family farms. If young ladies could perspire in the fields, they could sweat in athletics.
“When we were in high school, we didn’t realize there was any inequity,” said Jody Conradt, born and raised in Goldthwaite, on the western cusp of Texas’ Hill Country. Her harvesting of women’s basketball at the University of Texas earned her a place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. “We just played.”
Texas accommodated, but that hardly meant embracing the girls.
Leta Rains Andrews was a farm girl born and raised outside Granbury. It would be decades before they started digging Lake Granbury and building the strip shopping centers and the gated retirement communities that have made the town an extended suburb of Fort Worth.
She picked cotton and threshed wheat on her daddy’s 250 acres. She learned to drive on a tractor. She learned her game on a hoop mounted on a barn by the chicken coop. The shooting part, anyway. Dribbling in droppings was not advised.
She dreamed her voice would be her ticket to an easier life. She sang at the Methodist church and hoped to make it as a country artist.
But it was a man who directed her to sports.
Clyde Rains made it to the eighth grade before the Great Depression forced him to shelve his baseball dreams and work the land. He loved sports and drove his children to education and athletics, hoping they would prove successful in getting them off the farm.
Son Walter played baseball. Daughters Shirley and Leta played basketball. And boy, the girls could play. Believing Granbury High might be successful on the court with both daughters in the lineup, Rains held Shirley back a year so she could team with Leta all four years of high school. The game was six-on-six back then, with offensive and defensive specialists and limited dribbling.
In 1954 and 1955, the girls led Granbury to the state small-school finals in Austin. It was there that Rains’ girls discovered the majesty of the jump shot.
Leta played basketball for a couple of years at Weatherford College before transferring to Texas Wesleyan, which didn’t have a team. Didn’t really matter to her parents, after all. As a wedding present, they paid her tuition. Leta would be a teacher, removed from the burden of farming.
Coaching was Andrews’ path back to basketball.
First, it was at Tolar High, just to the west of Granbury. Then it was at Gustine to the south and on to Comanche, a shade west of Gustine. She journeyed to faraway Corpus Christi, where, in 1990, she won her only state championship at Calallen High with a team that finished 39-1.
Andrews’ sister Shirley Rains Hayworth coached basketball for 33 years at all levels before retiring in 1993.
It was at Comanche that Andrews coached her older daughters, Linda and Sissy. She coached Lisa at Calallen.
All three were recruited by Conradt to play at Texas. Linda made the greatest impact. A 5-7 guard, she was a member of Conradt’s first recruiting class in 1976, before women’s basketball was deemed acceptable to be played in the Southwest Conference. Linda remains the Lady Longhorns’ career leader in games played and steals. She is their second all-time leading scorer.
Like her mother, Linda Sue Andrews Waggoner became a high school girls coach. She made it all the way to the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame. By the time she retired last month after 25 years at nearby Glen Rose High, she had given up her basketball duties in favor of concentrating on volleyball and track.
“I’m going to enjoy retirement just as she will enjoy continuing to coach,” daughter said about mother.
In 1992, Leta Andrews and her husband, Dave, the high school sweetheart she married 55 years ago, returned to Granbury to help care for their aging parents.
Basketball has been a family affair at Granbury. Dave still drives the bus. Leta’s mom, Alba, and Clyde rode the bus until they passed away within one month of each other in March and April of 2006.
Clyde was almost 92 and still working the family farm when he fell off a tractor. His oldest daughter stepped away from school to visit him in the hospital in the waning days of another basketball season. He wasn’t happy to see her.
“Leta Mae,” father lectured daughter one last time, “are you still getting paid to coach? If you are, you better get back to work now.”
Leta Mae Rains Andrews learned all about hard work from that man.
And coaching was hard work. At Tolar and Gustine and Comanche high schools — in her decade before Title IX — she was a one-woman show like hundreds of girls’ coaches around the state.
She coached the varsity and freshman basketball teams as well as the seventh- and eighth-grade teams at the feeder junior high school. She coached the girls’ track teams, as well. In the classroom, she taught English and health.
On a whim in 1965, she showed spunk when she called a coach she had read about. She asked if she might fly to his school and study him in action.
Adolph Rupp said he would “love” to have her at the University of Kentucky.
Andrews says she can recall one week at Comanche when she coached 20 basketball games. “And didn’t lose one of them,” she added for emphasis.
Conradt, 71, is three years younger than Andrews and retired from coaching at Texas in 2007. She pointed out that Andrews was one in an army of girls’ coaches who carried their burdens while boys’ coaches were blessed with assistants and other support.
“But Leta was there to break barriers,” Conradt said. “And she may be the only one still at it.”
President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972, less than a week after the Watergate break-in. Title IX was part of a collection known as the Education Amendments of 1972, enacted to promote opportunities for woman across the educational spectrum.
That year, 7 percent of law school graduates and 9 percent of medical school graduates were women. In 2010, women made up 47 percent of law graduates and 48 percent of medical school graduates.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 294,000 girls competed in high school athletics in 1972. Now, it’s almost 3.2 million.
But it made no immediate impact on Andrews. A trickle-down effect jolted Andrews in 1980 when she was able to hire her first-ever assistant at Corpus Christi Calallen. And, she confessed, it took time to get used to. She simply did not know how to delegate duties.
It is a problem, she said, that has lingered to today, when she has three assistant coaches to help her with the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams at Granbury.
“And I have four junior high coaches, two at each campus,” Andrews added. “It’s been a blessing.”
Here are two other numbers — zero and 100 — that force Andrews to catch her breath.
Before Title IX, she did not have “a single athlete who received a college scholarship,” Andrews said, doing the mental calculations. “Now, in the last 40 years we can round it off to 100, the girls who have gone on to full rides in basketball and track.
“That’s a pretty significant increase, isn’t it?”
Included among her girls who earned scholarships is Amy Acuff, a basketball and track and field star at Calallen, who matriculated to UCLA and has represented the United States as a high jumper in four Olympics. Granbury’s Jia Perkins played basketball at Texas Tech and now plays guard for the WNBA’s San Antonio franchise.
One of Andrews’ granddaughters is a recent Fort Worth Country Day graduate. Grandmother proudly says Erin Andrews Parker will continue to play softball at Rhodes College in Memphis.
Another granddaughter, Miranda Rains Waggoner, who played basketball for her mother, Linda, at Glen Rose, has done Leta Andrews, the teacher, proud.
She earned a Ph.D. from Brandeis University and is immersed in post-doctoral studies in women’s issues relating to health at Princeton University.
“Hard work and perseverance are family traditions,” said Linda. “On the court and off.”
Linda, who was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, was not surprised when she heard her mother had invoked Title IX at the Fort Worth meeting.
“I’m proud of her for speaking out,” Linda Waggoner said. “It’s been a long journey. Women should be treated equally. Isn’t that the law of the land?”
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