COLUMBUS, Ohio – Phyllis Bailey, whose name is synonymous with the advancement of women’s sports at The Ohio State University, passed away peacefully over the weekend. She was 96.
Organized intercollegiate athletics competition for women within the Ohio State Department of Athletics began in 1965-66, thanks to the leadership and championing of Bailey, who had arrived on campus in 1956 to pursue a PhD and work with women’s sports club teams as Associate Director of Recreation, Intramurals and Intercollegiate Sports for Women.
At the time, Ohio State had a handful of women’s sports club teams. Bailey helped transition these club teams to intercollegiate teams, and when that happened Bailey, the basketball club team coach, became the varsity women’s basketball team’s first head coach. She led the Buckeyes to a 28-10 record from 1965-70.
By the time Bailey was named an Assistant Athletics Director in 1975 and shortly thereafter, Ohio State’s Department of Athletics featured 12 women’s sports: Basketball, Gymnastics, Field Hockey, Volleyball, Softball, Tennis, Cross Country, Swimming, Diving, Synchronized Swimming and Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field.
Bailey’s efforts in advancing female student-athlete participation did not just impact Ohio State student-athletes, but women nationwide. Bailey helped oversee the 1971 establishment of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which organized and recognized female intercollegiate competition for the first time. The passing of Title IX in 1972 and the acceptance of women in the NCAA in 1981 resulted in a restructure of the Ohio State Athletics Department with Bailey appointed the first administrator over women’s athletics.
In 1992, Bailey was a driving force in transitioning the Alumnae Society for Women Athletes to the Varsity O Women. This organization drafted and implemented guidelines that would elect the first class of female athletes into the Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame. Bailey was a member of that first class of women Hall of Fame honorees at Ohio State.
In all, Bailey spent 39 years at Ohio State as a coach, teacher, mentor, role-model and pioneer, before retiring in 1994.
A celebration of her life will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday October 13, at Schoedinger Northwest, 1740 Zollinger Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43221, with a reception following immediately.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Phyllis J. Bailey Endowment Fund, Fund Number: 600265, online or by mail to The Ohio State University, 14 E. 15th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43201. The fund is used to support women’s athletics at The Ohio State University.