Editor's Note: With its next women's basketball win, Kansas State University will hit the 800th all-time win milestone. Today and tomorrow "Sports Extra" will take a look at that history of the women's game at K-State with several of the coaches who have contributed to this remarkable accomplishment.
By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan - An exact date for the initial game played in 1969 - win No. 1 - is not even recorded, but Kansas State defeated Bethel in the first-ever competitive women's basketball game in the school's history, 38-25.
Now as K-State prepares to play at Nebraska on Saturday at 7:05, the Wildcats are poised to join an elite sorority of 12 previous NCAA Division I women's basketball teams with 800 all-time victories. In its 43-year history, K-State's record stands at 799-474 for a winning percentage of .628.
"Anytime you're a part of history or setting a record, it's a feeling of accomplishment," said Matilda Mossman, who coached the Wildcats from 1984-85 to 1988-89, posting a five-year record of 83-68, which included a Big 8 title in 1986-87.
Deb Patterson, K-State's all-time winningest coach at 296 victories, added, "It is an amazing achievement and a testament to the great coaches that have come before me and to all the great players that they have had the opportunity to coach. In my 15 years here, I have had the opportunity to watch a lot of great, highly-competitive, tough-minded players."
K-State has reached the NCAA Tournament 11 times and has participated in the Postseason WNIT three times, including winning the 2006 title. Individually, K-State has 11 student-athletes who have garnered All-America honors and five Academic All-America citations.
Initiating the program and coaching the Wildcats to the first 206 wins was K-State Hall of Famer Judy Akers, who logged a record of 206-94 from 1968-69 through 1978-79. Her first team won its first 11 games before losing three times in the National Women's Invitational in Amarillo, Texas.
By her fifth season, K-State was a 20-game winner, which included a 3-1 record in the National AIAW Championships in New York to place sixth, and her Wildcats were again sixth at nationals in 1975.
"I have such a feeling of respect and appreciation for what Judy Akers achieved," Patterson said. "I am absolutely in awe of the persistence she showed during a time when there flat out was absolute and total resistance from every side against women's basketball as an entity."
No truer words have ever been spoken.
Akers remembers the days when her program had four basketballs, and it wasn't unusual that they turned up flat, or missing, due to not having a universal appreciation for her new sport. In the early days, the team practiced at 5 a.m., and each player had $3 a day for a travel allowance.
Yes, 5 a.m.; yes, $3!
It was a time when Title IX was just a rumor, but an equality that Akers fought for eventually winning the individual battle, but losing the personal war.
"I knew when I did it that I was through," said Akers of the inequality complaint she filed with the K-State administration in 1978. "Not only at K- State, but anywhere people weren't hiring coaches because they wanted winners.
"Coaches were wanted that would come in and not want more than four balls. There were plenty of them at the time. They didn't know any better," said Akers. "For me, it was the end (of coaching). You put it all on the line like that back then and you're not particularly welcome anywhere else. That was my one, and final, last stand."
Those who followed - Lynn Hickey, Mossman, Gaye Griffin, Susan Yow, Brian Agler, Jack Hartman and Patterson - had a life on easy street because of the efforts of Akers at K-State, and at schools all over the country.
Hickey, who like Akers is a K-State Hall of Famer, became the Wildcats' second coach and went 125-39 (.762) in her five seasons that included 26, 23, 26, 25 and 25 wins, Big 8 titles in 1982, 1983 and 1984, and attending the first three NCAA Tournaments.
"Judy put down the groundwork for the rest of us to be successful," said Hickey, who today is the athletics director at Texas-San Antonio. "Had we not had people like her, women's athletics would not be where it is today."
Patterson agreed: "It was happening all over the country, but I truly look at her as one of the pioneer fighters for equal opportunities for women. In her time, they did it with passion and love for the game, and not necessarily for personal gain or financial gain."
1. Tennessee, 1,154; 2. Louisiana tech, 994; 3. Old Dominion, 926; 4. Stephen F. Austin, 901; 5. James Madison, 899; 6. Texas, 865; 7. Ohio State, 851; 8. Tennessee Tech, 833; 9. Stanford, 820; 10. Georgia, 806; 11. Penn State, 801; 12. Long Beach, 800; 13. Kansas State, 799