Title IX. Allegany County, Part I
Title IX, Allegany County: Part I, Dawn Sloan
Dawn Sloan, of Lonaconing, played on the back-to-back Maryland 1A Westmar Wildcats Girls State Basketball Championship team in 1990 and 1991. She then accepted a full basketball scholarship to the University of Maryland. On February 21, 2002, the night of the final women's basketball game to be played at Cole Field House, Dawn Sloan represented the 1992 University of Maryland women's team. The 1992 team was ranked No. 1 and played in front of the largest crowd to witness an Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball game. The attendance at Cole Field House was 14,500. Dawn is currently a physical education teacher at Allegany High School.
The following article focuses upon Dawn Sloan's career in athletics and her perspective on the fortieth anniversary of Title IX.
Opportunities ‘in every field are out there now’
For former Terp Dawn Sloan, the significance of Title IX more evident every day.
CUMBERLAND — When Dawn Sloan is teaching physical education at Allegany High School, when she’s helping coach the girls basketball team, and when she watches her 9-year-old daughter Taya play sports, she remembers what it was like when she played high school sports, when she grew up playing on the sandlots of Lonaconing.
Comparatively speaking, there weren’t nearly as many opportunities for girls to play sports in Dawn Sloan’s day as there are now in Taya’s. Yet there were even less opportunities for girls prior to June 23, 1972, the day Title IX opened the door to girls and women to seek their fair opportunities.
Title IX, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 and also identified by the name of its principal author as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
“Obviously,” said Sloan, “Title IX has expanded opportunities for girls and women. I believe cheerleading and square dancing were the only things offered at the time it was enacted. Female college athletics received 2 percent of the budget at most Division I universities. Now, I believe it’s 49, 41. And that’s a 20-year difference from when I was playing.”
From 1990 to 1992, there likely wasn’t a better high school basketball player in the area — male or female — than Dawn Sloan while she was leading the Westmar Wildcats to back-to-back Maryland 1A girls state championships in 1990 and ’91. Twice she scored 30 points in state tournament games, and on March 9, 1991, she scored 23 points to lead Westmar to its second consecutive state title in a 76-58 win over North Caroline.
There was nothing she couldn’t do on the basketball court — score, pass, rebound, defend — and she became the first high school player in history to be named Times-News Area Player of the Year for three consecutive years (1990-92), a feat Westmar’s Jill McGowan was the last to duplicate in 1995-97.
Born to be a Terp
Sloan accepted a full basketball scholarship to the University of Maryland, a national power in the women’s game, to play for Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Chris Weller.
“To tell you the truth, I never considered any other school,” said Sloan. “I wanted to go to Maryland. I did have a whole boxful of letters, but I never responded to any other school. I wanted to go to Maryland, so I never considered any other school.”
Immediately, Sloan became aware of the immeasurable difference between high school and Division I college basketball.
“When I first got there it was very intense,” she said. “But it was very exciting. Coming from a very small town and going to a very large city, there was a big difference. But I was welcomed there by everybody, and they made me feel very comfortable.”
While not a starter, she played immediately for the No. 1-ranked Terps in 1992, including in front of the largest crowd, 14,500, to witness an ACC women’s basketball game at Maryland’s Cole Field House.
During her freshman and sophomore seasons, she hit 42 percent of her field goal attempts, 78 percent of her free throw attempts and averaged 2.9 points a game.
Sometime, though, early in her freshman season, she had suffered a stress fracture in her left foot, but she continued to play through the end of her sophomore season until she could go no longer. The stress fracture had grown into a piece of bone and began chipping away at a “semi-joint.” Her final surgery was to prevent the joint from completely eroding.
“It was devastating,” Sloan said. “Absolutely devastating. Basically, my dreams of becoming the professional basketball player quickly left me that moment when the doctor told me.”
Title IX awareness
Her playing career over, she finished her degree, graduating from Maryland in 1996, all the while watching the women’s game, and women’s sports in general, continue to grow.
“When I was at Maryland, the awareness of Title IX was pretty strong because (Tennessee) Coach (Pat) Summitt and Coach Weller were really, really close, and they always talked about it. Looking back, our teams and Virginia, with Coach (Debbie) Ryan, were very into the whole Title IX issue.
“But as players, we just heard about it from the coaches. We didn’t really think about it impacting us because of the opportunity we had. But, of course, we wouldn’t have been there or had that opportunity without Title IX.”
If Sloan and her teammates at Westmar and at Maryland didn’t fully comprehend how Title IX opened the door to their opportunities while they were playing, Sloan the teacher and the basketball coach comprehends it more every day she goes to work.
“Definitely, "she said. “Just seeing the difference in the ability of girls. First of all, their attitudes are so much different because a lot of girls do talk about Title IX. Most who play know if it hadn’t happened they wouldn’t have the opportunity, and they do appreciate it. They want to continue to Division I, Division II, Division III, whatever they can.”
One of those girls is Leah Wormack, former Player of the Year at Allegany, who just completed her freshman season at the University of North Carolina Asheville. A 6-foot-1 forward, Wormack was the third leading scorer on the team at 10.6 points per game. She led the team in blocked shots with 28, was the second leading rebounder at 5.3, and was named first-team Big South All-Freshman after being honored as the conference Freshman of the Week three times.
“Leah Wormack understands Division I, and I don’t think she did until she got there,” said Sloan. “Her school’s sports focus is men’s and women’s basketball. There is no football there, and that’s great for Leah and all the girls there.”
Impact stronger than ever
Sloan is in her 15th year of teaching, her sixth at Allegany. She has been an assistant for girls basketball coach Jim O’Neal for five years.
“Oh, yeah, basketball is my favorite,” she said. “I started the (Allegany) soccer program in ’97, coached that for five years, had Taya, and came back for another year.
“Then I went back to basketball. As far as sports are concerned, basketball has always been my passion, that’s for sure.”
Sloan doesn’t hesitate when she says she wouldn’t be the person she’s become if not for Title IX. “Probably not,” she said, “because I wouldn’t have been able to go to Maryland. I’ve been able to be all over the country because of it. We definitely visited a lot of places around the country, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that.”
Nor does she hesitate to say her daughter Taya wouldn’t be the little girl she’s become if not for Title IX.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” she said. “Taya is very athletic, and I think she’s going to make the best of the opportunities she has. She will definitely make use of them somewhere. I’m just not sure which sport yet.
“And, again, softball wasn’t there when I was growing up. I played baseball. And soccer. Those are two sports she wouldn’t have been able to play. It’s really expanded.”
Taya plays soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.
“And she plays the guitar,” said Sloan. “That’s another opportunity she has. It’s not athletic, but just the opportunities for women and girls in virtually every field are out there now.”
For now, though, with school out for the summer, softball is No. 1 on Taya’s agenda.
“She just likes to play and has the same competitiveness I had,” said Dawn. “I guess that’s a good thing. She challenges herself. If she can’t do something, she plays it until she gets it. If something frustrates her, she’ll do it, do it, do it, over and over again. I like to see that fire. It’s something that has left a lot of athletes, so the fire is nice to see. Especially in girls.
“Overall, before if a female were involved in any competition, it wasn’t on the elite level in most sports. Now we have world championships, the different professional leagues, and I know that’s because of Title IX.”
Mike Burke, Cumberland Times-News
Westmar High State Basketball Champions, 1990
Allegany County (Md.)--Biography; Allegany County (Md.)--Women.
Allegany County, (Md.)