Oct. 5, 2007
The National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) will honor Florida State’s Barbara Jo Palmer as one of five Lifetime Achievement Award honorees at a reception on October 7th as part of the 2007 National Convention in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by NIKE, is presented each year to athletics administrators across the country who have dedicated their professional careers to the advancement of women in sport. This award is given to individuals who have retired or resigned from intercollegiate athletics administration and who have rendered commendable service.
After becoming FSU’s Director of Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics in 1977, Palmer saw FSU women win five national championships and receive 226 All-America awards.
Palmer made vast contributions through her lobbying efforts for Title IX in 1972 and was inducted into Florida’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982.
“It is the absolute ultimate, especially 25 years later, when your peers have recognized the things you have done,” Palmer said. “That is when you know you’ve had an impact on people. I hope I’ve had an impact on young women and to tell you the truth, I hope I’ve had an impact on young men.
“For me this is the ultimate acknowledgement when your peers do this for you. Some of them I haven’t seen for 20 years, so I’m very excited to see them and this weekend is really going to be a lot of fun.”
Florida State Sports Information had an opportunity to talk with Barbara Jo Palmer about her achievements in women’s athletic programs over the past 30 years.”
On the importance of the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Nike:
“Florida was the first and only state to put all of its state schools in compliance with Title IX. To put it into perspective, when I came in, women had a $163,000 total budget while the men had well over five million. Women’s athletics also had no full-time coaches either.
“What I really think happened with this and what a lot of people don’t think about, is because the state stepped up to the plate and appropriated this money – which by the way they did for men’s athletics when they started many, many years ago – the schools in Florida did not have to divert money from their men’s programs, which was one of my main priorities. I think you should have opportunities for all people, male or female. Because of that, I think our men’s programs were able to grow faster and higher back then because in the rest of the country, schools were having to divert money from their men’s programs and put it in their women’s programs. So it really was something that helped both men’s and women’s sports and what I’m most proud of are the young women who had the opportunities that I didn’t have growing up.”
Did you realize at the time you were lobbying for Title IX the lasting impact you would have on women’s intercollegiate athletics?
“I guess when you’re younger, ignorance is bliss. I was 28 when I started and by the time I got the appropriation I was 30 or 31. I had lobbied some before for the handicapped so I understood the process. But I think the hardest part, and I can say this now because it’s important for people to know, is that Mary Seals who was at the Board of Regents at the time, got information for me covertly about the men’s budgets throughout the state. Most of them didn’t want to give that information because they weren’t compliant. We kept saying if you did it then we could see how far we’re off and then go to the legislature and get it. It was a gamble. They didn’t know for sure if they’d get it. So Mary smuggled the information to me and I don’t think she’s ever gotten credit, part of the reason is she didn’t want to lose her job.
“I knew what I was doing; I was trying to get money for compliance and trying to get opportunities for women. But I don’t think I realized while I was doing it the impact it would have state-wide. When you’re in the middle of something you just do it. I knew it was significant because it was hard; anything that’s worth doing is hard. The funny thing is, there were men who were extremely supportive of what we were doing and then there were those who thought it was going to be the end of all men’s sports. I think a lot of that has changed, maybe a few still think that way but not a lot.”
What are your thoughts on the growth of women’s athletics at Florida State?
“It’s fun to see women’s programs continue to grow at FSU. I think JoAnne Graf is one of the best coaches out there. I’m glad she’s still coaching and I’m not sure how long she’ll stay. It is exciting to see and I think there are still some things we can accomplish as the women’s programs continue to grow.”
Was there one moment during your lobbying that stands out the most?
“A defining moment for me, I had been on the job for about three weeks, was when Cecile Reynaud, who coached women’s volleyball at the time, was selling tennis racquet covers to raise money to go to regionals. The day they left, keeping in mind seatbelts were required, I remember we literally had to close the door in the van with one of the girls sitting on a pillow on the floor. I swore that would never ever happen again as long as I was there. They were so crammed in there and had to drive all the way to regionals and compete and then had to drive back because they couldn’t spend the night. At the same time, the men were flying places. I just couldn’t understand why people would treat their daughters that differently than their sons. So the coaches and I went and spoke on a regular basis to a lot of civic clubs and that was very important to explain to a lot of the men out there that we are treating our daughters differently than our sons. At that point, I think a lot of them woke up and realized that we needed to do something.”
Why are intercollegiate athletics important for women and their overall development?
“One thing we always pointed out was the networking that men have enjoyed for many years and the camaraderie that they have. If you played sports, whether you played on the same team or not, if you spoke with someone across the country and you tell them you played volleyball or football there is an instant bond that happens. Everybody that has participated in that level of competition knows what it takes. It takes exactly the same characteristics to run a business or to be part of another team. whether you’re in charge of the business or you’re a follower, you have to have team work and you have to be able to work together. You have to learn how to win, how to lose, how to struggle, how to sacrifice and to set priorities. All of those things are essential to a success in life, and sports is just a little micro cog of that opportunity for somebody and it’s a life-lasting opportunity. It’s something that stays with us forever. It’s a feeling that you don’t get anywhere else. There is no feeling like doing your absolute, ultimate best at something you’re talented at like art, music, science and in this case athletics. There is no better feeling than to excel in something like intercollegiate athletics.”