‘Pioneer of Title IX’: Suit won by WSU runner changed course of state women’s college athletics

Karen Troianello still has the message she received from her friend, former Washington State University tennis player Julie Ramstead, in 1987.

We won. Much elation.

As the country observes and celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, let’s not overlook the landmark legal decision that changed the course of state women’s college athletics in the state of Washington in a much more profound way.

While it came out of the same movement for women’s equality in the 1970s that energized Title IX, “Blair vs. Washington State University,” filed in 1979 on behalf of track athlete Karen Blair (now Karen Troianello) and 38 other female athletes at WSU, as well as 11 coaches of women’s sports on campus, was not argued on the basis of the Title IX statute enacted seven years earlier.

“We looked at Title IX — or our lawyers did — and they just felt like it wasn’t strong enough at the time,” Troianello said. “Title IX came in 1972, and we filed our case in 1979. In that amount of time, it was still being argued about.”

Troianello, an editor at the Yakima Herald-Republic, recently was honored at a WSU basketball game as a “Pioneer of Title IX” and notes that the improvement in every aspect of women’s sports is staggering. She often gets emotional when she sees the opportunities that girls have today in athletics — opportunities that were lacking when she came out of Bellingham High School in the mid-70s.

“It seems so simple to say that people should have equal access to all the things that we can give you in schools,” she said.

Thursday, June 23, 2022 - 11:37am