Source, Story: History
: Teaching U.S. History in the Archives

Vivian Barfield, Assistant Director of Athletics: Title IX and the Fight Against Discrimination in Sports

Vivian Barfield

Vivian Barfield joined the Department of Athletics as the first female assistant athletic director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in January 1975. Barfield's position was created to bring the University into compliance with Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972. Title IX, which is still in effect today, protects anyone in a federally funded educational program from discrimination on the basis of their gender. According to the catalog entry for Barfield's papers in the University Archive, she was “charged with upgrading the women’s’ athletic program and contributing to the decision-making process in men’s athletics.”

Barfield left the University after less than eighteen months on the job, following a protracted conflict with the department head, Frank McInerney. In her resignation letter, Barfield made it clear why she was leaving. “I firmly believe I cannot affect more positive actions for student athletes and coaches,” Barfield wrote, “because of the present administrator’s leadership within the Department of Athletics.” The department, Barfield claimed, was plagued by male bias, paternalism, and a dysfunctional decision-making process.

These selections from Barfield's papers offer a glimpse of life in the workplace for women in the 1970s. Barfield's efforts to improve conditions for women athletes and coaches were short-lived. Nevertheless, her experience as a female administrator suggests that protection against gender discrimination for students and student athletes, as well as the women who administered their sports programs, was long overdue.

Finding aid for the Vivian Barfield Papers

Lesson plan (pdf)

Barfield's Profile in the Local Press

Barfield spoke to local newspapers about the challenges she faced at UMass. Articles detailing her experiences were published in February and March 1976. She received news of Frank McInerney's negative reaction to the coverage in a memo distributed to the entire Department of Athletics.

Valley Advocate article 1976 Feb. 18 digital object
Greenfield Recorder article 1976 Mar. 31 digital object
Frank McInerny memo regarding articles in local media 1976 May 21 digital object

Scholarship Funds for Female Student Athletes

In spring 1976, Barfield challenged McInerney's new policy on allocating financial aid for women athletes.

Barfield outlined her objection to the new policy in a April 1976 memo. 1976 Apr. 23 digital object
McInerney acknowledged Barfield's comments in early May, but refused to change the new policy. 1976 May 10 digital object
Barfield's reply in June is indicative of her increasing frustration with the Department. 1976 June 4 digital object

Formal Charges to Federal Authorities

In November 1975 and June 1976, Barfield lodged formal complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission about discrimination within the UMass Athletic Department.

Barfield's formal complaint to the Equal Employment Commission 1975 Nov. 17 digital object
Barfield second complaint to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission 1976 June 23 digital object

A Paper Trail to Resignation

After giving her resignation to the Dean of Athletics in June 1976, Barfield submitted a formal grievance to the School of Physical Education. The following documents, in chronological order, are a paper trail of the issues outline in Barfield's grievance letter. The documents are filled with of the language of bureaucracy, but nevertheless convey Barfield's frustration and anger with the UMass Department of Athletics.

Barfield to McInerney 1976 Mar. 5 digital object
McInerney to Barfield undated digital object
McInerney to Barfield 1976 Apr. 1 digital object
Barfield to McInerney 1976 May 7 digital object
Barfield to McInerney 1976 May 11 digital object
McInerney to Barfield, sent to Barfield's home address 1976 May 17 digital object
McInerney to Barfield, with additional note from Barfield 1976 May 19 digital object
Barfield to McInerney 1976 may 21 digital object
Barfield to McInerney 1976 May 25 digital object
Barfield to Dean of Athletics, D. C. Bischoff 1976 June 28 digital object
Barfield to School of Education Grievance Committee 1976 June 29 digital object