Founded in 1905, the Women’s Athletic Association (WAA) aimed to unify women’s athletics and promote interest in sports among women at the University of Michigan.[1] It was a student organization with a faculty advisor. Women were encouraged to participate in athletic activities for health and social benefits, provided they participated only in “feminine” sports and did not do anything deemed too strenuous for women.  Though the WAA offered a variety of sports, it was unlike the men’s athletic program at the time in that it had a strong focus on participation and recreation rather than competition. Because these were club sports, the majority of women’s athletic activities and competitions took place within the university rather than with students of other colleges in intercollegiate competitions.[2] By the late 1960s, the WAA began to decline, reflecting changes in student life as well as questions about whether women’s interests were best served by sex-segregated organizations. While the NCAA has grown over the years, the WAA no longer exists. The introduction of Title IX in 1972 meant that women’s varsity teams could be established at Michigan. Prior to this legislation, the WAA served a critical need for women athletes at U-M. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) exists today as a non-profit organization that regulates the student-athletes of over 1,200 member institutions. Founded in 1905, the NCAA initially sought to address the conditions in college football, which at the time had become dangerous and controversial enough that many university presidents and administrators favored its abolishment. Yet instead of abolishing football, the NCAA sought to more effectively manage the sport, and since that fateful meeting in 1905, the organization—in the words of former President John L. Griffith in 1935—has sought to rid college athletics as a whole “of any objectionable features.”[3] While the NCAA has certainly expanded its scope from the time of Griffith’s remarks—whether in terms of monitoring recruitment, determining student-athlete eligibility, securing television broadcast contracts, or issuing penalties to member institution as a result of misconduct—much of the organization’s core mission remains the same.

[1] Gladys Appelt, “The History of the Women’s Athletic Association,” 1928, Women’s Athletic Association 1926-1928, Box 1, Women’s Athletic Association (University of Michigan) Records 1905-1962, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[2] Letter from Marie Hartwig to Beth Broach, Nov 20, 1944, Michigan Women’s Athletic Association 1939-1954, Box 1, Marie D. Hartwig Papers 1927-1988, Bentley Historical Library.

[3] John L. Griffith. Letter from John L. Griffith to the presidents of all NCAA member institutions, September 30, 1935. Box 12. Ralph W. Aigler paper, 1908-1962. University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.