September 29, 1997
Volume 50, No. 6
Emory athletics added women's softball as a varsity sport beginning in 1998-99, raising the total number of varsity sports to 18-nine for women and nine for men.
The move came in response to the NCAA's Title XI, which requires schools to have the same percentage of female athletes in varsity sports as they do in the student population as a whole. The athletics department is conducting a search for a coach, and the Emory women's softball team will take the field in the spring of 1999.
"Presently we have 56 percent women on campus, and we have about a mid-40s percentage of women athletes," said Steve Batterson, former chair of the athletics policy committee of the University Senate. "We needed either more women student-athletes or fewer men athletes, so the solution was to create a new women's team."
A number of factors figured into the decision to add softball as opposed to golf or some other sport. First was competition: women's softball is the fourth most-popular Division III sport, Batterson said, and Emory will be the sixth University Athletic Association team to compete for the conference softball championship.
Another reason was how the sports' schedules jibed with students' class schedules; softball presented many fewer difficulties than did a traveling golf team. And last, a golf team would have to compete off-campus, thereby reducing the number of student spectators at a match.
That said, the softball team will have to play its games off-campus until an on-campus facility can be built. Sports Information Director John Arenberg said the athletics department is looking hard at the area behind Peavine parking deck as a possible site for a softball diamond, though there are a few hurdles to clear, including developing a cost-effective plan for the field's construction.
Despite the challenges ahead in finding a coach, fielding a competitive team and giving them a field on which to play, athletics officials were excited about the announcement. "We're pleased that the University administration has made a significant commitment to increase the opportunities for female student-athletes," said Chuck Gordon, Emory athletics director. "We feel confident that Emory can develop a softball program on par with our other nationally ranked programs."
Last year, Emory finished fourth in the country among 350 Division III schools in the Sears Directors Cup, a measure of overall athletics programs. Thirty-seven percent of Emory athletes made the Dean's List last spring.
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