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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Ann Meyers Drysdale: My winning moment

By Ann Meyers Drysdale

I've been a part of women's collegiate sports from the beginning, so I've seen where it's come from. Playing sports just wasn't really cool for girls when I was growing up, and, as a result, there weren't many athletic girls to play with. In fact, when I was in fifth grade, the gym teacher made me learn to throw with my left hand because he said I threw too hard with my right.

I was the first woman to get a full scholarship to play Division I athletics. There was no social media in those days, so even at the college level, you didn't really know who was on the other coast playing at what school. I didn't have a clue what was going on in Maryland, at Duke or Michigan State. And they probably didn't know where UCLA was either. We packed bag lunches when we traveled to away games and drove home afterward. There wasn't money to stay in hotels, let alone to fly across the country in those first years.

But my favorite moment was winning the national championship my senior year -- on my birthday. My older brother David had won championships at UCLA, and achieving this feat made me feel like I was in the same category. The game was between two big-name schools, UCLA against Maryland. There'd been a rivalry on the men's side, which was a great story for the media. We'd also been beaten by Maryland earlier in the season, but we felt very confident going into that game. There were almost 10,000 people in the Pauley Pavilion for the Final Four -- including many of my family and friends -- and the final was broadcast on TV. I've since heard Jackie Joyner-Kersee say she saw that game, and seeing me in the Bruins jersey was part of what helped her decide to go to UCLA.

I've broadcast so many women's Final Fours since, and I've seen women's championship games drawing more than 20,000 fans. But there was something pretty special about that championship game in 1978. It was a real turning point in women's basketball.