50th anniversary of Title IX: How the law impacted Long Beach State Athletics

Published June 22, 2022

As soon as LaTanya Sheffield crossed the finish line at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, she knew she was part of something big. She was among the first 16 women in history to compete for a gold medal in the longest hurdling race at the international event. 

It was at that moment Sheffield realized the opportunities Title IX had afforded female athletes like herself. 

“It was a ground-breaking experience in the broader picture,” said Sheffield, who finished eighth overall in the gold-medal race.

The event was first held at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 and it was then that Sheffield, a student at San Diego State, set her sights on the Olympics. It was a chance at making history she could not pass up.

Now, as head track and field coach at Long Beach State, Sheffield helps provide opportunities for today’s female athletes.

Fifty years ago today, Title IX banned sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, opening doors for girls and women in various areas of education. Yet, its most visible impact was on expanding opportunities for women in sports – on the field, in the arenas and administration offices.

Former Beach women’s basketball coach Joan Bonvicini was a college student in Connecticut when Title IX legislation was passed. She wouldn’t fully understand the implications of the gender equity law until she took her first head coaching job and discovered her paycheck was half of what the men’s coach received.

“Because of Title IX, scholarships were suddenly available for women because men had them,” Bonvicini said. “Scholarships changed. Salaries changed. 

“I think Title IX has been wonderful for young girls and women because now they have more opportunities, in both athletics and academics, and that has given young girls more role models.”