Heyman A Driving Force In Giving Women An Opportunity
by Ryan Reiswig
Michael Heyman has a resume many people only dream of having: a graduate of Dartmouth and Yale, a law clerk to a U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, a secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, a law professor and chancellor of a prestigious university. However, there is one job Heyman took on 25 years ago that doesn't often show up on his list of successes.
As the Pac-10 celebrates its 25th anniversary of women's athletics in the Conference, it is imperative to recognize the people responsible for making this anniversary a possibility, and Heyman is one of them. Heyman, University of California's chancellor from 1980-1990, was instrumental in giving Pac-10 women the power to make decisions regarding the direction of women's athletics, a major development at the time.
Initially, Luella Lilly, Cal's women's athletic director from 1976-1992, was hesitant for women to join the Pac-10 because she thought they may end up without a voice in regards to running their own programs.
"Very specifically, [we wanted to be sure] that we had a voice," says Lilly, when talking about her goals in the process at that time. "We wanted to have a vote and have our ideas and concepts about what would be best for women's sports not stopped at some other level."
As it turned out, Heyman was on the same page, as he was looking for equal treatment for both men and women in athletics.
"I just wanted to have the women's athletic directors treated on par in regards to rules and regulations and all the other kinds of stuff the athletic directors talk about in their meetings together," says Heyman, a native of New York City, N.Y. "I just wanted the women to have the same status as the men."
Heyman became a central figure in the process when he began a two-year term as the Chairman of the Pac-10's CEO Group in 1985-86.
"[Heyman] came and talked to me and said, 'Lue, I understand you're the last holdout as far as trying to be a part of the Pac-10. I know you have to have your reason. It's inevitable that it's going to happen, that women are going to be there under my term of service. I would like to be able to resolve the situation,'" Lilly recalls.
Lilly was open with Heyman and shared her fears that the women leaders would no longer have a role in decision-making or the sharing of ideas if women's athletics shifted under the guidance of the Pac-10. She had seen it happen too many other places to feel comfortable.
"One of the questions really was whether or not the head of women in women's intercollegiate athletics on each of the campuses would be welcome in the meetings of the athletic directors of the Pac-10," says Heyman, who still teaches law at Cal. "I was fairly active in regards to getting my colleagues to agree that women should be treated in a first class way rather than a second class way in the Conference."
One of the ways Heyman addressed Lilly's concerns was by creating a senior women's administrator position. Initially, some of the athletic directors and presidents weren't receptive to the idea, but Heyman was able to talk them into the new structure. Building consensus was one of his strengths.
"He was very good at getting groups of people together. He had a real relaxed performance, but he really got things done," says Lilly, who in 1999 was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Collegiate Women's Athletic Administrators. "He's someone who looks deep into the future; he knew it was inevitable. He was very fair and willing to listen."
Without the influence of Heyman during this time period, in addition to leaders like Barbara Hedges of USC and Judith Holland of UCLA, the Pac-10 would not have won 123 national championships in women's sports since joining the Conference. Needless to say, most of the goals were accomplished, even to the dismay of some.
"There was some resentment from some of the men who didn't necessarily want the women in it, but eventually it turned out to be ok. I think the result for us at the time was absolutely perfect," says Lilly. "We had equal access to the faculty reps. I don't think we could've asked for a better situation."
As far as women's athletics today, Heyman sees substantial progress by just opening the sports page or turning on the television.
"When I read the paper, they seem to be covered pretty well now. The years that I'm talking about, they were a very minor feature on the sports pages," Heyman said. "The skill levels have really gone up [as well], as I think about basketball, the women are playing really interesting basketball."