Burns Committee

UM President Robben Fleming and Gerald Ford

U-M President Robben Fleming and Gerald Ford, 1974

During the early 1970s, the disagreement between the U-M administration, athletic department, and students about the future of women’s athletics was as pronounced as ever. Seeking to satisfy the mandates of Title IX, President Robben Fleming appointed the Committee to Study Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CSIAW) in 1973.[1] This committee, also known as the Burns Committee after chair Eunice Burns, was the University’s “first administrative commitment to developing women’s intercollegiate athletics”.[2] Marie Hartwig and Sheryl Szady were both appointed to this committee. The Burns Committee’s investigations showed how far behind other institutions the University of Michigan was falling.[3] The Committee recommended a new organizational structure for women’s athletics at Michigan, which had been “cut adrift when the Women’s Athletic Association disbanded and the Physical Education department refused responsibility for the program."[4]

Report of the Committee to Study Intercollegiate Athletics for Women

Cover Photo of Burns Report

The Burns Committee recommended varsity status for six women’s teams, including field hockey, tennis, basketball, volleyball, synchronized swimming, and swimming and diving.[5]  The Committee further recommended that rather than building new facilities for women, a new system for scheduling needed to be enacted so that women could share existing facilities with the men’s teams.[6]  The committee also appointed Marie Hartwig as the Women’s Athletic Director, a position recommended by Michigan State University.[7]

Although the Burns Committee expected full compliance from the Athletic Department, Don Canham was vehemently opposed to women’s varsity programming and remained so throughout his time as Athletic Director. Despite his opposition, the Regents and President Robben Fleming approved the Burns’ Committee recommendations and a women’s varsity program began under Hartwig’s leadership in 1974.[8] 


[1] Leslie Riester, “Hartwig Appointed,” The Michigan Daily, October 2, 1973, page 8.

[2] David Diles, “The History of Title IX at the University of Michigan Department of Athletics” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1988).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Leslie Riester, “Hartwig Appointed,” The Michigan Daily, October 2, 1973, page 8.

[5] Chronology of Implementation, Title IX Chronology of Implementation 1979, Box 6, Women's Athletics Records, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[6] David Diles, “The History of Title IX at the University of Michigan Department of Athletics” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1988).

[7] Leslie Riester, “Hartwig Appointed,” The Michigan Daily, October 2, 1973, page 8.

[8] Chronology of Implementation, Title IX Chronology of Implementation 1979, Box 6, Women's Athletics Records, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.