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1999 Iowa Girls' State Basketball Tournament
Lynnville-Sully senior Carrie Norman drives past Rockwell-Swaledale's Carrie Stromley during the 1999 Iowa Girls' State Basketball Tournament. Photo courtesy Iowa Girls' High School Athletic Union

Iowa Girls' High School Basketball Tournament

The Iowa Girls' High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) has been the best friend of girls' high school basketball since the 1920s. Even then, the organization published its own basketball rulebook, high school yearbook, and held seminars to help officials and coaches learn more about girls' basketball. However, at the heart of the IGHSAU was its pride and joy - the Iowa Girls' High School Basketball Tournament. Early on, the Iowa innovation of a six-on-six game was showcased during the Iowa Girls' State Basketball Tournament. Capacity crowds at the girls' state tournament became a fixture in 1949, when 40,000 fans attended the tournament at Drake University Fieldhouse. The growth of the tournament received another boost in 1955 with the completion of Veterans' Memorial Auditorium in downtown Des Moines, where the girls team played the first title game before a record crowd of 15,290, a state record that still exists today. The Tournament enjoyed its "Golden Age" in the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, when the tournament actually sold out months before it began. The game was broadcast on TV statewide, also reaching nine other states.

The passage of Title IX in 1972 called for fair and equal opportunities for women and men, and forced many states to begin interscholastic programs for girls. Yet even before Title IX, Iowa girls made up 20 percent of girls participating in high school sports across the country. Iowa was used as a model for other states that were starting girls' sports programs. Sports Illustrated called Iowa "a utopia for girls' athletics..." Nevertheless, Iowa girls' basketball received a jolt when three Iowa high school girls filed a Title IX lawsuit against the Iowa Girls' High School Athletic Union, alleging that the girls were not receiving the same opportunities as their male counterparts, as they were playing six-on-six rather than five-on-five as the men did. The IGHSAU came up with the solution of allowing each school to decide for itself the style in which to play. In 1993, the IGHSAU Board finally voted unanimously to end six-on-six basketball.

Even while the schools were adjusting to a new style of playing, Iowa high school girl basketball players were still making their mark on the national scene, with many Iowa girls playing Division I College Basketball. In 1999 Waterloo West star Nina Smith was named 1999 High School Player of the Year by Parade and USA Today. The game has changed, but the excitement and pageantry of the nation's oldest girls' high school tournament remain. Only in Iowa is the female athlete queen.

Project documentation consists of an 11-page essay with bibliography, five photos with cutlines, a flyer for a book Only in Iowa: Where the High School Girl Athlete is Queen, and a video: "Iowa Salutes the Iowa Girl: 72 Years of Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament."

Originally submitted by: Tom Harkin, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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