Lieberman: Don't Forget the Pioneers


The United States is overflowing with talented women's basketball players, perhaps the world's best. But who are they?

With NBA stars playing now in the Olympics, USA Basketball administrators are concerned that the gifted women will be overshadowed at Barcelona. Susan Blackwood, head of the Women's Games Committee, said the organization has addressed the problem, but offered no solutions.

Nancy Lieberman also considered the situation. Her conclusions:

"Men perpetuate men," she said. "Women don't think like that. How do kids know about Mickey Mantle? We make those guys important.

"Little girls don't know who Ann Meyers (UCLA All-American) is, because when you open up the NCAA (Final Four) program, it has champions from 1981 to 1991.

"Am I missing something here? Did Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, UCLA, Immaculata not win any titles? Our history goes way back before the NCAA came aboard. Life didn't begin with the NCAA."

Women's sports came under the auspices of the NCAA in 1981. Before that, collegians played in the Assn. for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Some of the game's greatest stars graduated from that era of basketball--Lieberman, Meyers, Lusia Harris and Carol Blazejowski. All go unmentioned in the history of NCAA women's basketball.

"Those women should be treated like gold for all they did for the game," Lieberman said. "They should be legends.

"It was not unheard of for Carol and me to say we don't like each other. It made the game interesting. There were rivalries. Sometimes in women's sports we're so nice to each other."

Lieberman said switching to the NCAA was important in the game's development, but she hopes the organization someday will recognize AIAW players the way the NBA does American Basketball Assn. competitors.

"(To say) the history of women's basketball started in 1981 is a disservice to the players, teams and coaches for all their hard work and being pioneers," Lieberman said. "It's wrong. It amazes me that we are that shortsighted."

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