Women’s breakthrough in college football overdue

Amazingly, the year is 2020, and the topic of conversation is that Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller became one of the first women players in a major-college football program, and the first to play in a Power 5 game.

Last month, Fuller’s kickoff was anything but a routine part of special teams. The kickoff was historical, not only for collegiate athletics, but sports itself.

Fuller isn’t the first female athlete in collegiate sports to play college football, but she is the first-ever to do so for an NCAA Division I conference like the powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

Liz Heaston was the first woman kicker in college football in 1997 when she played for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Willamette University. So this isn’t unprecedented. Still, the achievement is spectacular.

Coming from the perspective of starting a sports-writing career in the year 2000 covering women’s athletics and covering former women’s basketball coach Lorene Ramsey, who coached three years before Title IX, it is refreshing to see the continued acceptance of women in big-time sports programs, broadcasting and sports journalism.

This experience would eventually lead me to a path of covering the 2007 Phoenix Mercury team, which captured the WNBA Finals Championship over a team led by Detroit Shock coach and former Piston Bill Laimbeer.

That team featured two now-legends in women’s athletics, Diana Taurasi and former Australian basketball standout Penny Taylor.

For years, Hollywood has encouraged the idea of women in football, with Helen Hunt starring in 1983’s made-for-TV movie “Quarterback Princess,” which was based on the accomplishments of Tami Maida.

During the 1981 season, Maida’s family moved to Philomath, Oregon, from British Columbia, Canada, and she became one of the first known female quarterbacks to play in high school.

Kathy Ireland played a college kicker in the flick “Necessary Roughness.”

Without getting caught up in semantics, the premise of this column is simple: equal opportunity.

Maybe one day we will see women athletes get paid as much as their male counterparts. For the most part, the gap between professional women athletic figures and male athletes isn’t even close, but the precedent for change was set by Fuller.

With the world ever-evolving through this COVID-19 pandemic, whether intentional or not, it is nice to see more social progress continue to be made under the current conditions.

Fuller’s kickoff is just the start of progress that has been a long time coming.


Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Mr. Male December 7, 2020 4:55 am Reply

    That’s so awesome. It’s so cool. Now can i go play girl sports and get the same great reviews from you. Or will you say something like that wouldn’t be fair or write some scathing article about how unfair it would be. Stay in your lane. It’s ok that boys can play sports with boys. Really, it’s ok to have separate things in life, you don’t have to mix everything up like a plate lunch.

  2. Khsgrad December 7, 2020 2:46 pm Reply

    Her playing football is as ridiculous as blonde beauties interviewing NFL football players…… There are some things that ought to be left to the manly men- football is one of them!! #masculinityISforMEN

  3. Kathy Ireland December 8, 2020 10:38 pm Reply

    Thank you Jason Blasco for a great read and badly needed perspective. To the commentary listed above, as a Board of Directors member of NFLPA PI, the health, wealth and well being of our male players is a daily honor and responsibility. Our teams and players are mostly, very happy and excited for the progress and equality shown to and accomplished by Sarah Fuller. By the comments above, I suppose modeling would disqualify me from Board service. Separate But Equal was struck down by our Supreme Court in the landmark Brown case decades ago. Of course, there are situations where men and women aren’t going to be able to seamlessly have interchangeable roles. Sarah Fuller’s success proves that Power Five isn’t one of them. As the Chair and CEO of one of the world’s 26th most successful brand, there are places for women. Agreed. One of those places is shattering glass ceiling barriers, imposed by outdated thinking. 2020 had challenges and wins. Go for it folks. It’s a really good thing to “play like a girl!”

  4. Poul Madsen February 25, 2021 8:56 am Reply

    I have watched ‘Quarterback Princess’ so many times on YouTube and I am still mesmerized by every obstacle Tami Maida had to endure and overcome. I follow some of the women stars in soccer and I have to say that top female soccer players actually soccer as it’s supposed to be played. Male soccer players tend to play the game very physically, but soccer is a team sport and players have to receive and pass the ball, not tackle your opponent. Women don’t tackle, they play the ball and I believe that women in soccer has a bright future

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