Jody Conradt, a legend in women’s basketball and intercollegiate athletics administration, will be the speaker at the 125th Spring Commencement at The University of Texas at Austin, May 17 on the Main Mall.
Conradt’s 900 career victories and the university’s 1985-86 undefeated NCAA championship team and NCAA Final Four appearances (1982, 1987, 2003) have earned her an honored place in sports history.
But a lesser known fact-that during her 38-year coaching career, 99 percent of her letter winners went on to earn their college degrees-has won her the respect and admiration of the academic community and administrative leaders in higher education.
From the beginning of her 31-year coaching career at The University of Texas at Austin, Conradt was as much a catalyst for social change as she was a coach. Her initiatives weaved a new perspective into the social fabric in how our society viewed women in sports.
“Jody Conradt has been a pioneer in women’s college basketball, and thereby in progress toward equality for young women,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. “As the father of three daughters who have been heavily involved in high school sports, I am, myself, a beneficiary of her transformative work. UT is proud that Jody Conradt has been a leader on our campus for 32 years, and we look forward to her sharing her inspirational thoughts with our graduates.”
Conradt arrived on the Austin campus four years after passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, legislation that prohibits discrimination in all educational activities on the basis of sex. Conradt worked to create opportunities for talented women to gain access to higher education with sports as a part of that opportunity. She broke through barriers for women, and especially for women of color, providing them access to a quality education through their sports skills.
Although retired from coaching, Conradt continues working as a special assistant in Athletics as a resource for fund raising and community relations initiatives. Conradt and Donna Lopiano, who preceded Conradt as the university’s director of women’s athletics, founded the Neighborhood Longhorns outreach program in 1991. The educational incentive program involves university students and student-athletes volunteering to help improve grade performance among economically disadvantaged children in the Austin Independent School District. The program grew so exponentially that it now is supervised by the vice president for diversity and community engagement.
Conradt, a native of Goldthwaite, Texas, was an outstanding basketball player in high school and later at Baylor University, where she earned a degree in physical education in 1963. She went on to pursue a teaching and coaching career at Waco Midway High School before returning to Baylor to earn a master’s degree in 1969. She received a distinguished alumnus award from Baylor in 1989.
Conradt’s early collegiate coaching experience at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas (1969-73), and at The University of Texas-Arlington (1973-76) set the stage for her arrival at The University of Texas at Austin in spring 1976 to take over the women’s basketball and volleyball programs.
Under her leadership, the women’s athletics program quickly rose to unprecedented levels. Conradt’s women’s basketball teams ranked No. 1 in the nation four straight years (1983-84 through 1986-87) and were undefeated in the Southwest Conference from 1979-80 (a string of 183 consecutive victories). Home game attendance rose to more than 8,000 fans per game. Donors and supporters contributed more than 90 endowed scholarships to the women’s athletics program. The 1985-86 Longhorns team was perhaps the women’s game’s best ever, finishing 34-0 as the first undefeated national champion in NCAA history.
During a critical time of the university’s women’s sports expansion, Conradt also served in a dual role as director of women’s athletics from May 1992 through April 2001. More than 200 more female student-athlete opportunities were added during that time in new sports of soccer, softball and rowing. As athletics director, Conradt hired national championship coaches, including Beverly Kearney from Florida (track-cross country) and Chris Petrucelli from Notre Dame (soccer). Softball Coach Connie Clark (four NCAA College World Series appearances) also was hired by Conradt.
When she retired in March 2007 Conradt was second in most victories in men’s and women’s collegiate basketball history. She was named national Coach of the Year six times by her peers.
She also developed 28 professional basketball players (who played in the U.S. and in Europe), four U.S. Olympians, three players who earned 13 national Player of the Year honors and eight Kodak All-Americans.
Conradt’s numerous awards include being only the second woman ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (1998) and entry to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. (1999), the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in New York (1995), the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco (1998) and the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame (2003) in Kingston, R.I.
Her influence beyond the athletics realm earned her induction to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986 and a Giant Steps Award from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at The University of Central Florida in Orlando in 2008.