King to receive Ford Award
The NCAA has named Billie Jean King, tennis great and champion for social change and equality, as the recipient of this year’s NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award.
King is the seventh recipient of the award, which honors individuals who have provided significant leadership as an advocate for higher education and intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis.
NCAA President Myles Brand will present the award to King January 15 at the opening business session of the 2009 NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C. In honor of King, the NCAA will donate an honorarium to the institution of her choice for the benefit of student-athletes.
“Billie Jean King has created new inroads for women in sports and beyond during her legendary career,” Brand said. “From her record 20 titles at Wimbledon, to the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ in 1973, to her founding of the Women’s Tennis Foundation and Women’s Sports Foundation, her career has been – and continues to be – one of great accomplishments and contributions to society.”
King likely is best known for her historic 1973 match against Bobby Riggs, dubbed the Battle of the Sexes. The 1973 match is widely considered to be one of the greatest moments in sports history, remembered for its effect on society’s view of women.
King attended California State University, Los Angeles, where she played tennis. She won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed-doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. She was one of nine players who broke away from the tennis establishment, leading to the birth of women’s professional tennis.
In 1973, King lobbied for and obtained equal prize money for both genders at the U.S. Open. Also in 1973, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association. In 1974 she created the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women’s Sports Magazine.
Since founding the Women’s Sports Foundation, King has led the organization in its mission to advance the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity. In the past 34 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $50 million in educational and cash grants to advance participation, research and leadership in sports and physical activity for girls and women.
Several publications have honored King throughout her life, including Life and Sports Illustrated, and the USTA National Tennis Center in New York is named for her. Additionally, the nation’s first permanent comprehensive museum collection dedicated to women’s sports, housed at the Sports Museum of America, is called the Billie Jean King International Women’s Sports Center.
She continues to be involved with the USTA and is currently chair of the Tennis in the Parks Committee. She is a leader in the fight for equality and recognition in the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered (GLBT) community and has been honored by many of the leading GLBT organizations.
She currently serves on boards of the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. King also launched an environmental initiative called GreenSlam, which is a challenge to the sports industry to pursue green-based initiatives.
Previous winners of the Gerald R. Ford Award are University of Notre Dame President Emeritus Theodore Hesburgh; former Knight Commission chair William Friday; former United States Senator Birch Bayh; former University of California, Los Angeles, basketball coach John Wooden; Christine Grant, former director of women’s athletics at the University of Iowa; and James Frank, former NCAA president and longtime athletics advocate.
Ford was the 38th president of the United States, taking office in 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned. Ford was president until 1977. His 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 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.
Ford died in 2006 at the age of 93.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association