UC Riverside’s Athletics hosted its eighth annual “99 For Title IX” fundraiser event Friday, May 19 and it was quite successful. The event was attended by donors, athletes, alumni and administration on the roof of the Riverside Art Museum, and by the end of the night, the goal to raise $200,000 dollars raised was finally achieved after an eight-year-long effort as the event brought in nearly $60,000 dollars, almost double the amount raised last year. While the event serves as a fundraiser for women’s athletics at UCR, it represents far more than money. What “99 For Title IX” really stands for, is opportunity.

UCR Athletic Director Tamica Smith-Jones believes this event serves as a way to acknowledge the impact women have on college athletics as well as connect “a community of people that may not attend games, but know the value (of) supporting this event” to UCR and its athletics programs. The event itself was founded eight years ago by a group of women, one of whom was UCR’s very own Amy S. Harrison (class of 1972), who wanted to find a way to increase support for women’s athletics. As Smith-Jones explained, women like Harrison grew up and played sports in a time before the Title IX law was made effective in the United States on June 23, 1972 and because of that, they were not guaranteed the same opportunities to compete as men were. Thus, eight years ago, the “99 For Title IX” event was created so that women like Harrison or fellow UC Riverside alumni and Athena Award for Riverside recipient Sue Johnson could provide those equal opportunities for the young ladies who came after them.

Smith-Jones herself has seen the first-hand benefits of Title IX and the opportunities it gave women, saying, “For me, it was an opportunity for me to play sports growing up with the boys and gaining the skills to be offered a full scholarship to access higher education without incurring debt.” She is also one of three female African American Athletic Directors at the Division I level and she attributes her opportunity to be in her position to Title IX’s “Maximizing gender equity especially in a male dominated profession like Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Over the past few years, the money earned by the the fundraiser has been used on equipment and facilities for women’s sports, which, according to Smith-Jones, operate nearly dollar-for-dollar with men’s sports. But under Smith-Jones these last two years the money has been used as “an aid for our student athletes who need an extra quarter” to graduate. During that extra quarter, these student athletes are available to intern within the UCR Athletic Media program as an opportunity to gain experience in the athletic administration field. It is important to note that the money raised helps all of UCR’s student athletes, as Smith-Jones explained, “Oftentimes we have to be reminded that Title IX’s goal is to show value to women but not at the expense of devaluing our male counterparts.”

As of now, the money raised by the “99 For Title IX” has been used to assist the existing nine women’s sports, but Smith-Jones hopes that, in the future, the event can raise money to expand the number of men’s and women’s sports. For Smith-Jones the next goal for the fundraiser to tackle is: Water sports.

“That’s the other thing we try to look at when we talk about Title IX is, ‘What are the high schools offering and will the colleges be able to mirror that?’” explained Smith-Jones, “these high schools are offering swimming (and) water polo and those are two sports that stay on my radar.”

The addition of water sports to UCR is something that Smith-Jones believes would make the school much more attractive to potential student athletes due to the popularity of swim and water polo in southern California. Fielding a schedule for those potential water sports is something Smith-Jones has already thought of, noting that six Big West Conference schools (with the exception of Riverside and Cal State Fullerton) already offer women’s water polo exclusively. Smith-Jones has no doubt that the time will come when the 99 For Title IX committee tackles the feat of funding women’s water sports at UCR, saying, “I wouldn’t put it past them. Amy Harrison saw we needed a softball stadium and she built it! … This group of ladies, they are really committed to doing all they can to elevate our program.”

Ultimately, the “99 For Title IX” event serves as the bridge between the leading ladies of the community, and the entire UCR Athletics program to offer opportunities to student athletes, men and women, who otherwise may not have had the chance to compete. At the current rate of growth, Smith-Jones believes the amount of money raised by the event could soon exceed $100,000 annually which would accelerate the implementation of new amenities like water sports exponentially. Smith-Jones believes the work of “99 For Title IX” is never done, so it’s safe to say this event will only keep raising funds to provide equal opportunity to all of UCR’s student athletes.

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