Honorable Judge Marianne Vorhees was an outfielder on the Ball State softball team who graduated in 1980. Vorhees was awarded a Varsity 'B' letter from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics on Feb. 19, 2006. Kaiti Sullivan // DN
FOR THE RECORD: Judge Marianne Vorhees remembers playing softball for Ball State before Title IX
Editor's note: "For the Record" is a weekly series featuring former stand-out Ball State athletes and their lives after college.
Hanging on the wall of Delaware Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees' office is a large, white "B" plastered onto thick, red paper.
Under the "B," it reads, "Ball State University's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics proudly presents Marianne Vorhees this Varsity 'B' letter for softball on February 19, 2006."
Years at Ball State: 1976-1980
It's a reminder of when she played softball at Ball State, before Title IX was in full effect.
"We weren’t there because we were getting a scholarship," Vorhees said. "We were there because we loved to play the sport."
When Vorhees enrolled at Ball State in 1976 there were no athletic scholarships, and women's sports received just 2 percent of athletics budgets.
“Everything was just open tryout," Vorhees said. "Everyone just showed up who wanted to play softball and you tried out.”
Title IX was passed in 1972, requiring every educational program receiving federal funding to give equal opportunity to males and females, but it didn't apply to intercollegiate athletics at first. It wasn't until a 1979 Department of Health, Education and Welfare policy interpretation regarding a 1975 bill signed by President Gerald Ford that it truly applied to sports.
By the time Vorhees graduated in 1980, she was a four-year starter with a pair of state championships and experience on both sides of Title IX. Before her senior season, the coach approached the players and said they were getting athletic scholarships.
“I always tell people I remember Title IX from the very beginning, when it came into effect,” Vorhees said.
Originally, she came to Ball State to become a teacher. She said she would have loved to be a college coach some day, but back then women who coached were really full-time professors with a hobby.
“I really liked coaching, but there's no way I really wanted to be a college teacher and carry a course load and coach," she said. "That’s another real benefit from Title IX, it's made careers for women in athletics that weren’t there before.”
Ball State's uniforms and equipment were in pretty bad shape before the legislation was passed, she said. The only thing worse than the equipment was transportation — the whole team and coach would pile into a van and station wagon for road games. One season, the Cardinals were stranded on the side of the road for hours after the van broke down on the way to Wisconsin.
Vorhees had enough.
She wrote a letter to Ball State on behalf of the softball team.
“I told them that we were not happy, if it was your daughter in those vehicles you would not send your own daughter out in those kind of vehicles that were unsafe,” Vorhees said.
That's when she knew she wanted to become a lawyer.
After graduating from Ball State, Vorhees earned her law degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1983. From 1993 to 2002, she was the master commissioner for the Delaware Circuit Court. Now, she's a 14-year veteran on the bench.
Today, she stays active by playing in a tennis league. Some of her friends are a few years older, and Vorhees said they feel like they really missed out on sports in school.
"All they could do is be a cheerleader or in the pep club," Vorhees said. "They were never included."
Even though she didn't have a scholarship until her senior season, Vorhees said she was lucky to come of age in the infancy of Title IX. Not only did she get to play in college, but the Indiana High School Athletic Association first recognized girls' sports when she was a freshman at Muncie Northside High School.
“We really were playing just because we loved to play," Vorhees said.
She remembers that every time she looks up at the large, white "B" hanging on her office wall.