Phyllis Ocker, former associate director for women’s athletics, is considered as influential to the Michigan Athletic Department as Don Canham and Bo Schembechler for building a program from nothing. Beginning her tenure in the midst of the Title IX debate, Ocker’s administration saw a dramatic increase in funding and opportunities for women athletes at Michigan.
“We ironed our own uniforms. We paid for the officials. We provided our own transportation. We were always borrowing friends’ cars and packing incredible amounts of people into them."1
- Sheryl Szady, class of 1974, remembering women's athletics before Title IX
Ocker came to Michigan in 1961 as a physical education professor on a one-year contract and decided to stay at Michigan for nearly thirty years. Known for her diplomacy and determination, Ocker became a respected faculty member despite the adversities she faced during her time in office. Ocker was also responsible for reversing the declining trend of women coaches and administrators and increasing the number of scholarships afforded to women athletes. When Ocker first took office as associate director, spending for women’s athletics was set at $100,000. It had increased to $2.4 million in 1990 by the time she retired.2 Ocker was heavily influenced by Dr. Margaret Bell, the subject of a dissertation she never completed.
1. Ami Walsh, "The Leader of Vision and Determination," Michigan Alumnus 97, no. 2 (1990): 29.
2. Ibid, 27.