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Vicki Hamilton: ‘All girls allowed, and boys, too’

This is the fifth story in the SLR Original series on Title IX  (See previous)

Another key Carolinian leader in the first wave of post-Title IX women’s sports was Vicki Hamilton. 

She was a partner in crime of Judy Rose, who sent me to Hamilton as I continued to follow the trail of Title IX breadcrumbs in Carolina. Hamilton, whip-smart and charming, was a regular quote in the Charlotte Observer’s high school sports stories for years and represented the post-Title IX changes as well as anyone in the area.

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Vicki Hamilton, the Director of Athletics for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. (GAYLE SHOMER)

 From 1994 to 2011, Hamilton was the athletics director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the first female AD for a city-county district in North Carolina. While in that role she broke ground across the board, shepherding system-wide changes around GPA and attendance requirements, advocating for equal pay for coaches, and building mentoring programs for women and minorities in athletic administration.

“Why are the boys’ varsity and JV coaches making more than the girls’ coaches?” she often asked. “There are still five players on the floor.”

Though the Equal Pay Act of 1963 has long required that men and women be given “equal pay for equal work,” it remains the case that in most professions, including coaching, women are not paid equally to men. 

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women made about 56 cents for every dollar a man made in the United States in 1972, when Title IX was passed, and by 1994, when Vicky Hamilton began as the CMS AD, that had improved only to 72 cents for women for every male dollar.

She joined CMS after coaching softball and volleyball at the University of South Carolina, and led the inaugural season of Gamecock softball along with the second and third seasons of Gamecock volleyball. 

1975, the year she coached both sports, marked the first time South Carolina distributed athletic scholarships to women, according to records in the Garnet & Black university yearbook.

Fresh from that immersion into the world of Title IX, Hamilton came to Charlotte as a secondary curriculum coordinator. She eventually served as principal at four Charlotte schools before becoming the district athletic director. 

That never could have happened in the pre-Title IX days amid a mantra she remembers as “unless you’ve played football, you can’t be the AD.” 

She found that macho attitude around her often — it was starkly reflected at a conference she once attended for coaches and ADs in Greensboro, where she said a “sweet grandaddy” character greeted her at the event’s main room by suggesting that “this is not the door for you. The spouses’ meeting is down the hall.” In response, she found herself a seat in the front row of their meeting. 

Her work as an administrator caught the eye of many, including NBC Nightly News, which singled her out as its Person of the Week in a feature that highlighted “everyday heroes.” 

She operated as an everyday hero amid a fierce limitation on girls’ sports. The Girl’s Athletic Association, an archaic athletic outlet once available to girls in Charlotte was a limited operation, and she remembers principals and superintendents saying: “There is no place for girls in sports.”

When she was younger, her dad was involved in a Class D baseball team in Salisbury, NC, where she attended all the games, and wanted to be the batgirl. 

“No girls allowed,” her dad said. 

So when she was hired as AD, the first thing she did was post a sign that read:

“All girls allowed, and boys, too.”

Read the next part of our series on Title IX: Debby Jones

Ellyn Ritterskamp is a journalist and teacher who loves thinking about sport and ethics, especially if there is baseball involved. She lives in Charlotte, NC, has appeared on three TV game shows, and has visited all the parks in Major League Baseball, the South Atlantic League, and the Carolina League.

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