Christine Grant, former director of women’s athletics at the University of Iowa, is the recipient of this year’s NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award.
NCAA President Myles Brand will present the award to Grant at the opening business session of the 2007 NCAA Convention January 6 in Orlando, Florida.
"Christine is a pre-eminent and passionate leader who represents an entire class of pioneers that broke through barriers to the benefit of women’s sports. She and others did the heavy lifting that has afforded college women athletes the opportunities they enjoy today, and her courage and character have made her a role model for today’s student-athletes and athletics administrators alike," Brand said.
"The Ford Award honors lifetime achievement, and thus it is an appropriate award with which to recognize Christine’s longstanding contributions not only to women’s sports, but also to intercollegiate athletics and higher education in general."
Grant said she was "stunned" when Brand told her he wanted to honor her with the Ford Award.
"I was there (at the NCAA Convention) last year when two of my heroes received the award: Birch Bayh, whose three-decade-long effort on behalf of equal opportunity is something I’ve always admired, and then John Wooden, whose philosophy of sport is very similar to mine. To be in their company through this award is somewhat mind-boggling," Grant said.
Grant is best known for her fight for gender equity in athletics. She testified before Congress several times and served as a consultant for the Civil Rights Title IX Task Force. She was a founding member of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and served in a variety of leadership roles with that organization. She also has held several positions with the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, including the presidency from 1987-89.
A native of Scotland, Grant served as women’s athletics director at Iowa from the time the department was established in 1973 until her retirement in 2000. Grant, who remains an associate professor at the institution, graduated from Dunfermline College of Physical Education in 1956. She was a field hockey coach and player in her native country and in Canada. She came to Iowa in 1969, receiving a bachelor’s degree in physical education and master’s and doctoral degrees in sport administration.
Under her direction, Iowa’s athletics department grew to include 12 NCAA championship sports that won a combined 27 Big Ten Conference titles. Throughout her career, Grant was honored by NACWAA, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport.
Grant said she hopes her efforts to promote athletics opportunities for women have helped young people get involved in sports who otherwise may not have.
"I personally got so much out of my participation in sports as an athlete that it gave me a passion to have as many young women experience what I have experienced," she said. "I just hope that I’ve increased the participation opportunities for some girls and women."
Though she has dedicated much of her life to equity in athletics, Grant said she foresees the day when the outcome will be taken for granted.
"I envision a future where gender equity is not even discussed because equal opportunity and equitable treatment of our student-athletes already exists," she said. "I’d also like to think that in all decision-making, wedo put student-athlete well-being as our very first consideration — not just in our rhetoric, but in our practical decisions."
The Gerald R. Ford Award, named in recognition of former President Gerald Ford, honors individuals who have provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis over the course of his or her career. This is the fourth year the NCAA has presented the award. University of Notre Dame President Emeritus Theodore Hesburgh received the inaugural award in 2004 and former Knight Commission Chair William Friday was the 2005 recipient. In 2006, Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh and former University of California, Los Angeles, men’s basketball coach John Wooden both received the award.
Ford was the 38th president of the United States. He was vice president when he took the oath of office in 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned. Ford was president until 1977.
Ford’s political career began in 1948 when he was elected to Congress from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He became House Minority Leader in 1965, a position he held until Nixon appointed him as vice president in 1973.
Ford played football at the University of Michigan where he participated on national-championship teams in 1932 and 1933. He started every game at center his senior year and was voted most valuable player by his teammates. Ford received contract offers from the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, which he turned down in favor of studying law at Yale University. Before beginning his law classes, Ford coached freshman football and boxing.