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50th Anniversary of Title IX: Shelly Carlin

Jul 25, 2022
Shelly Carlin (left) with UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez

The following snippet ran in the Summer 2022 edition of Bruin Blue Magazine

By Jon Gold

Shelly Carlin was standing on the Shafter High School field just north of Bakersfield, doing warmups with her West High teammates on what was not much more than a cow pasture, when her future came calling.

It was 1979, and earlier that year, she'd written a letter to UCLA softball coach Sharon Backus; she was already admitted to the school, but she wanted to play softball for the Bruins.

As she stood on that field, dodging cow patties with the deftness of a ballerina, Carlin watched as Backus and former UCLA women's athletic director Judith Holland stepped out of the car.

"The next day, they called and offered me a scholarship," Carlin said. "It was a dream come true. But I'd never even imagined it. There is no way I would've gone without a scholarship. I would not be here today without Title IX."

This was not a dream deferred, it was a dream unfathomed – no one in her father's side of the family had attended college and Title IX didn't even kick in until Carlin's freshman year of high school. She was on West High's first softball, girl's volleyball and girl's basketball teams. College scholarships were almost a foreign concept in her town.

In those days, in the first years after Title IX's passing, high school sports for girls were barely a thing.

"It's hard to imagine now how unpopular you were if you were a girl playing sports," Carlin, whose maiden name is Aguilar, remembers. "Tennis was acceptable, volleyball marginally, but softball and basketball? No. It was OK for little girls to run around, but not when you were a pre-teen and certainly not in high school."

Now, 50 years after Title IX and 40 years after helping lead the UCLA softball team to the inaugural NCAA Women's College World Series championship in 1982, Carlin is helping extend opportunities to UCLA student-athletes herself. A successful corporate human resources professional for decades after graduating from UCLA summa cum laude, Carlin established the Michele Aguilar Carlin Scholarship in 2006, and in 2012, she pledged $400,000 to the program to help establish a legends wall at Easton Stadium and to fund a leadership curriculum for members of the softball team. Earlier this year, she committed $1 million to the program - the largest ever to UCLA Athletics from a former UCLA female student-athlete – and the team announced that the softball head coach position will henceforth be known as the Shelly Carlin UCLA Head Softball Coach.

All because of one change in legislation, a half-century ago.

"The thing about UCLA, and I've talked about this a lot, is we have the most Olympians and All-Americans, but each of us has an equal part of the UCLA legacy," Carlin said. "We have our great stars and players, but it is as egalitarian as you'll find. Everyone is treated the same here."