There wasn’t much of a women’s athletic department at Indiana University when Leanne Grotke-Andreas began her career there in 1965.
It was a time when “women’s athletics were limping along and men’s were flying across the country,” said the 20-year Miramar Beach resident.
But in her 13 years at the school, she built a successful women’s athletic department and also a legacy, for which she was honored last week with induction into the IU Hall of Fame.
“I feel more proud of it now than I did then,” said Andreas of being named the first female Associate Athletic Director at the University, as well as in the Big Ten conference, in 1972, right as Title IX was passed to level the playing field for men and women.
In her acceptance speech of the award, Andreas thanked three hard-working visionaries who “laid a path” for the future of women’s athletics: the president of the university, the athletic director and Anita Aldridge, Ph.D., Andreas’ mentor and the woman who brought Andreas to IU in the first place.
“They laid the groundwork for the position, unbeknownst to me,” said Andreas, calling these University leaders “forward thinking” about the future of women’s athletics.
Andreas’ career at IU started after she graduated from Bowling Green State University. She spent two years teaching physical education at a Kansas City high school.
In 1965, Andreas enrolled in a master’s program at Indiana University, where Aldridge was the chair of the athletic department.
“She gave me my very first teaching job,” said Andreas of her mentor, adding that she followed Aldridge to Indiana for support and guidance at the collegiate level.
After receiving her M.S., Andreas stayed on at IU as an assistant professor for women’s physical education, which at the time included two sports — basketball and field hockey.
As well as lacking in variety, women’s sports offerings lacked in competition.
“The programs were at such a level they only competed six times a year,” said Andreas. “Women’s athletics was at a very low.”
Andreas had experienced that growing up in small-town Ohio, where playing field hockey was one of the only outlets for women to play team sports. She was disappointed to see that was true even at the university level.
And so in her first two years as an assistant professor, Andreas worked to change that, and quadrupled the offerings to include golf, volleyball, swimming, tennis, softball and gymnastics.
In the decade that followed, Andreas not only oversaw the transformation of women’s sports at the collegiate level, she was a primary leader.
Aldridge and the rest of the University were “forward thinking” in their attempts to level the playing field for women’s teams, and had been waiting for the opportunity to move Andreas up into a higher title.
In 1972, after the adoption of Title IX, Andreas was appointed as the Associate Athletic Director at the University, and to boot was the first woman to hold that position in all of the Big Ten conference.
“(Aldridge) realized the importance of title,” said Andreas. “Women could be trampled … It led the way in the Big Ten for others to follow.”
And after that, women’s athletics programs began to ascend into the field of collegiate and professional sports. The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was formed, as the national body for women’s athletics.
The group managed women’s sports before the women’s teams entered the NCAA. In the beginning, the AIAW had set up its women’s athletic programs without the “problems men’s athletics has” of recruiting and scholarships.
“We didn’t permit women to have scholarships,” the later-AIAW Commissioner said with a laugh, admitting it sounds “archaic,” though it made sense at the time for women to compete simply for “love of the sport.”
Andreas retired from coaching in 1991 after holding, notably, positions as Associate Director of Athletics at California State Fullerton, and six years on the National Collegiate Athletics Association Executive Board.
She ultimately retired and moved to South Walton.
Today, Andreas no longer plays sports, though she stays active at Grace Lutheran Church in Destin and in philanthropic efforts within the community.
But she says she looks back on her time at IU as one of her best.
“It’s such a cliché to say you’re at the right place at the right time … (Indiana University) supported women’s athletics. I just had to show up,” she said.
“I just think of it as a privilege and excitement,” she added. “It was fun.”