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Modern Women’s Sports: Post 1988 and Beyond





When asked about the impact of the 1988 complaint made by captains of women’s sports team, Missy Foote recalled, “…luckily some members of the Board (Administration) agreed and proposed putting some money into women’s athletics to hire new coaches, (there were only 2 women coaches on the staff at that time), add some locker rooms, build some fields, even out practice times and meal money and equipment purchases, increase access to the training room and equipment rooms, etc.” The period from late 1980s to early 1990s were indeed years of growing pains for the Athletic Department, when they had to go through a lot of reworking and remodeling. Much of the renovation and construction plans of the present facilities were made during those times, including the Allan Dragone Track and Field, the Chip Kenyon ’85 Arena, the Pepin Gymnasium, the Nelson Arena, the natatorium, and the Peter Kohn Field.


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Coach Missy Foote


While increased effort was shown by the Administration in compliance to the enforcement and the spirit of Title IX, on a national level, many institutions were still comprehending and deciphering the law, some even tried to take shorts cuts to make their way around the ordinance. In 1988, the Congress overturned its initial decision in 1984’s court case of Grove City College v. Bell, confirming the notion that Title IX applies to the entire institution, not just the specific programs that receive federal funds[1]. In 1996, the Office of Civil Rights strongly affirmed its 1979 Policy Interpretation of Title IX, reflecting the determination of the State in upholding gender equality[2]. In the same year, in the Cohen v. Brown case, the Federal Court asserted the importance of offering participation opportunities for women and the unjustness and the discriminative nature of endorsing the premise and unfair gender stereotype that women are less interested in sports than men[3]. However, in March 2005, the Department of Education issued a new “policy clarification” on its website in regards to Title IX, without prior notice to the public. The new policy shifts the burden to female athletes to prove discrimination as female students’ athletic interests and abilities are determined solely from results of an email survey[4]. In the fall of 2012, Middlebury College celebrated the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX. A panel consisted of four extraordinary women in from four different eras held a forum with students and staff. The link to the video of the panel forum can be found here.



Bille Jean King, an advocate for gender equity and Title IX in the 80s and 90s.


Meanwhile, on the fields of the small liberal arts college of Vermont, three exceptional women’s programs were being forged. They were the Women’s Lacrosse Team, the Women’s Ice Hockey Team, the Women’s Cross-country Team, and the Women’s Field Hockey Team. These three teams enjoyed unprecedented success in the 90s and the early 21st century.


The 1997 Women's Lacrosse National Champions
The 1997 Women’s Lacrosse National Champion Team.


The Women’s Lacrosse Team, under the inspiring and excellent coaching of the legendary Missy Foote, in the stretch of 14 years from 1994 to 2007, advanced at least to the Final Four of the NCAA Championships. The squad in 1997 became the first women’s team, other than the Women’s Ski Team, to win the Nationals. The women Panthers made their way to the championship games eight times, and came away with the top prize five times, in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2004. It is fair to say that the Women’s Lacrosse Team is the most decorated women’s team at Middlebury to date.



Heidi Howard - star field hockey and lacrosse player
Heidi Howard ’99, one of Middlebury’s very best in both lacrosse and field hockey, according to her coach Missy Foote.

1997 Lacrosse Championship - Heidi Howard in action
Heidi Howard ’99 Moving Past Her Opponents Swiftly in the 1997 Title Game.
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Missy Foote and her two children, Rob (left) and Anne (right).


The Women’s Ice Hockey Team is also a 5-time national champion on ice. Under the helm of Bill Mandigo, the women dominated the rink in the early 21st century. They rose to the top of the division in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2006. From 2003 to 2009, with the distinguished guidance and leadership of Mandigo, the team managed to reach at least the Elite Eight every single year.


The 2004 Women’s Ice Hockey National Champion Team; the Men’s Team also won that year.

Bill Mandigo, the long-time Women’s Ice Hockey coach.


The Women’s Cross-country Team, coincidentally, came first in the country 5 times as well: 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010. The Panther runners placed second three times in 2002, 2004, and 2011. Coach Terry Aldrich was legendary and well respected for his insurmountable contribution for the teams’ tradition of success and for bringing the program to where it is today


The most recent National Champion Cross-country Squad, 2011. Coach Terry Aldrich Retired that Year.


Coach Terry Aldrich was in His Position for 36 Years.


The Women’s Field Hockey Team, having to battle in the competitive NESCAC conference, was able to achieve tremendous success. Although their lone national championship title came in 1998, they made six appearances to the title game. Both Coach Katharine DeLorenzo and Coach Missy Foote played instrumental and crucial roles in building the program.



The 1998 Field Hockey Team was Crowed National Champions.


Middlebury Athletics reached its height in 2012 when the school captured the Directors’ Cup with a total of 1040.75 points, breaking the 13-year winning streak of the Williams Ephs. Interestingly, out of the 1040.75 points, women’s teams earned well over 60% of the points. In particular, “minor” sports like volleyball, tennis, soccer, and track were steadily climbing up the ladder. This not only signifies the overall improvement in the competitiveness level across all women’s sports, but also the pivotal part that women have played in Panther Athletics.


Middlebury came in first place in the prestigious Director’s Cup.

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