Watch: Q&A with Weston
A baseball glove and a football.
These two items were a gift to a six-year-old Marcy Weston from her grandmother back in the late 1940s, a time during which sport was not the traditional pastime of choice for young girls like Weston.
"Men's sports have always had advocates," said Weston, who has served as a senior associate athletics director at Central Michigan University since 1989 and was recently honored as the namesake for the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame. "Women's sports certainly do now, but that hasn't always been the case."
Young Weston, helped by the advocacy of her fourth-grade homeroom teacher Mr. Jones, was able to play with the boys at recess, a feat quite uncommon for a young girl in the era. All she had to do was let the boys use her glove when she was up to bat or her football when they played a game, and she was in.
Weston, her grandmother, Mr. Jones or any of the boys on the Wayne-Westland playground didn't know it at the time, couldn't know it, but these two unassuming pieces of sporting equipment were the beginnings of a lifetime passion for sport that would set the course of not just Weston's life, but would also impact the fortunes of women's sport.
Six decades later, she has led a 40-year-and-counting career at CMU, continually challenging the status quo of the sporting landscape through her officiating, coaching and administration, and helping raise the standards for not just women's sport, but sport in general. In recognition of her impact and achievements, it was announced that the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame would be re-branded with her as the namesake.
As part of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday, Sept. 30, University President Dr. George E. Ross publicly unveiled the newly named Marcy Weston Athletics Hall of Fame, a moment that was very meaningful to Weston.
"To have your name on something, that's forever," a visibly emotional Weston said more than a week after the ceremony. "I know personally two-thirds of the people in the Hall of Fame. It's very, very meaningful to have my name attached.
"I look at names on other areas of the Events Center, I look at names on other buildings on campus - to be in that company is humbling. It doesn't happen every day to everybody."
But then again, it's also not every day someone like Weston comes along.
"I don't think there's another person at this time who is more identified with the history of our program for such a long period of time," CMU Athletics Director Dave Heeke, who was hired by, among others, Weston six years ago, said. "She's been here for 40 years of our program, and I don't think there's anyone who better reflects the tradition of this program and what it stands for than Marcy."
The CMU community agreed, as a number of donors have stepped forward and made significant gifts to the CMU Events Center project specifically to attach Weston's name to the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Throughout her forty years at CMU, the ever-persistent Weston has occupied many roles, making a difference both on and off campus, and has accumulated a list of responsibilities and awards too numerous to fully list.
She has been an instructor for women's physical education; she coached field hockey, basketball, and most notably volleyball for 15 years.
She has served in her role as senior associate AD for more than 20 years, overseeing softball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, women's basketball and gymnastics, and men's and women's track and field for many years. As part of this position, she has also overseen student services, strength and conditioning, sport medicine, and athletic human resources for the entire department. She was elected into the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame, now bearing her name, in 2004.
She has officiated basketball, in 2008 becoming the first woman to earn the Gold Whistle Award, recognizing an individual whose contributions to officiating have resulted in the betterment of the profession.
She served on the first women's NCAA basketball rules committee; and she has served as the national coordinator of officiating for the NCAA for 21 years. In 1991, she was recognized at the NCAA women's basketball Final Four as one of nine significant contributors to the first decade of NCAA women's basketball, alongside such legends as Pat Summitt and Cheryl Miller, and was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.
But the role and responsibility she treasures most is one not written into any of the contracts of the aforementioned jobs.
"It's not in my job description, but I feel responsible for all of our women's sports. Even if there are other administrators who supervise them, as the senior woman administrator, I believe I am the guardian of our women's sports to make sure they're always kept in the conversation, in the discussion, and in the solution."
And stayed in the conversation women's sports have during Weston's time at CMU - one of the main reasons she cited as to why she has remained at the university as long as she has.
"Central always had the right attitude, the right mindset," she said. "It all worked for me. Not just for me selfishly, but for what I believed women in sport should do. It was all happening here. I was a part of it. Central has always believed in what is right for both men and women in sport."
Weston's Early Career
Weston arrived in Mount Pleasant as a field hockey coach and women's physical education instructor in 1972. That same year marked the passage of the historic Title IX legislation, which ultimately turned the tide of women's sport, though at the time it garnered little to no attention in the world of sport.
"Title IX had started then, but it was educational. Very few realized it had anything to do with athletics," she said.
At this point in her life, Weston had yet to be exposed to the inequalities girls and women faced in sport, as she had grown up in an environment which had afforded her unique opportunities to participate in athletics.
After being allowed to play with the boys in elementary school, Weston enrolled in a Catholic school in the sixth grade that provided young girls opportunities in sport. Unlike the public school from which she had transferred, and most other public districts around the country, her Catholic school offered organized sports teams for women.
"I was relatively astute but I never thought girls didn't have opportunities, because I always got to play," she said. "I realized the public schools didn't have girls sports, and I thought it was just their loss. I didn't think it was a social issue."
In the eighth grade Weston played softball and the first of her five years of high school basketball, as very few eligibility rules yet existed.
"That was just the luck of the draw. If I had stayed in public schools," Weston said, pausing for a shrug, "who knows if I'd be where I am today?"
"I was in the right place at the right time. I had teachers, my grandma. I grew up in the right neighborhood. I went to parochial school that had sports. Sometimes luck is even better than being smart. You're in the right place and the right environment."
Weston then left the Wayne-Westland area for Dayton, Ohio, where she played field hockey, basketball, volleyball and softball for the Flyers. After starting as an English major, she switched paths during her sophomore year to become a physical educator and coach, setting her for the first time on the track to her eventual career at CMU. She graduated in 1966 and held several coaching and teaching positions over the course of the next few years.
It wasn't until her 1972 arrival at Central Michigan that she started to gain perspective on the plight facing women in athletics, a realization to whom she credits her mentor and former associate athletics director Fran Koenig.
"Koenig said 'I think we need to try to get some scholarship money for the women. The guys have it and we don't,'" Weston said. "That's really the first time I really thought about it."
Becoming a Force of Social Change
Weston eventually switched gears from coaching field hockey to coaching both women's basketball and volleyball in 1974, while at the same time becoming active in the state of Michigan's Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the forerunner organization to the NCAA incorporating women's sports into its jurisdiction, under Koenig's guidance.
"Fran was very active nationally," Weston said. "I wanted to be involved, and she always assisted me in moving up the ranks in the AIAW at the state level, even while I was coaching."
After two years of coaching both volleyball and basketball, Weston decided to stop coaching basketball, but she did not leave the game by any means, staying involved as an AIAW official.
Over the next decade-and-a-half, Weston made a name for herself in not just women's sport, but sport in general. Not only did she become a legendary volleyball coach for the Chippewas, compiling a 419-143-15 career record and setting a CMU record 54 wins in 1981 that still stands, she made a name for herself as a women's college basketball official.
The NCAA hosted its first women's basketball national championship game in 1982 in Norfolk, Va., and, as the only woman on the officiating crew, she became the first woman to referee an NCAA women's basketball championship game. She returned to officiate the 1984 title game.
Weston again made history in 1984 when she served as the first secretary-editor of the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee, charged with the task of modifying the rules of women's basketball for the NCAA. As part of this task, Weston and J. Elaine Hieber, a former associate athletic director and senior woman administrator for Iowa State and chair of the Women's Basketball Rules Committee, wanted to make the game similar to the men's game, which required they coordinate with the Men's Basketball Rules Committee meetings, a challenging and frustrating prospect to say the least.
"The Women's Basketball Rules Committee would meet in due diligence and try to do what we felt was appropriate for the game," Hieber said in an August 2008 interview with Referee, an officiating trade publication. "We would get close and then the men would meet and change their rules so we were further apart than when we started."
Through the many challenges Weston faced in trying to earn respect for women's sport in a realm historically dominated by men, she always remembered one of the many bits of advice she had learned from Koenig.
"My mentor Fran said, 'If you're not in the room, you're not going to be part of the solution,'" Weston said. "If you tick the whole world off and they're not going to let you be in on the discussion, you're not going to have any input. She said 'Don't sell your soul, but you have to be in the room.'"
Eventually, Weston and Hieber made their way into the room for a Men's Basketball Rules Committee meeting, though none of the men seemed to want anything to do with either of the women, Hieber said.
Throughout her career, particularly in this early part of it, Weston learned quickly that she needed allies.
"You can't just sit back and throw your hands up in the air and say 'dang.' You're never going to get anything that way, for what you believe in or what is right," she said. "Early in my career I had to find who the advocates were."
According to Hieber's interview with Referee, Weston was able to find an ally in then-Notre Dame head coach and current ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, through whom she was able to explain to the other men some of the rules changes the women were implementing.
"I'm just a firm believer in steady pressure," she said. "If I want something, I just keep at it. I wear them down, or I get a different ear instead of the ear I had originally."
Weston knew the fight for fairness for women's sport would be neither easy nor brief, but her persistence carried her through most of the challenges she faced.
"When you start out, when people ask for things and they say 'Dang it, why can't I have it?'" she said. "I say 'Keep asking. Keep putting a plan together. It can't always happen immediately.'"
A Guardian of Women's Sport
In 1989, Weston made the next big step in her career, stepping down as the volleyball coach to take over Koenig's position as senior associate athletics director following her retirement. At the same time, Central allowed Weston to continue her involvements with the NCAA.
"Central allowed me the flexibility to do that, and I don't feel I ever shortchanged them. They treated me with respect and trusted that I would do my job," she said. "Why wouldn't you want to be affiliated with that sort of employer or institution?"
Her NCAA participation continued for the better part of two decades in two different capacities. She served on the Women's Basketball Rules Committee until 1997, one year after she became the first-ever national coordinator of women's basketball officiating. She held on to that position until 2005, when she stepped down from the NCAA and turned her focus solely on Central Michigan.
But as part of her persistent nature, she is still not content with sitting back and enjoying the status quo.
"It's crazy how things roll," she said. "Once it starts rolling, people say you can just sit back and watch it. Well, not always. You've got to be diligent. You've got to keep pushing. It could roll away and not go the way you want it to go."
By that time and into the present day, a significantly higher number of young girls were and are experiencing the same type of athletic upbringing as Weston's years on the playgrounds of her Wayne-Westland elementary school. No longer is a girl's participation in sport unique, as it was for Weston.
"It just took time for parents to realize that what was good for their sons is also good for their daughters," she said. "As those children grew up into forty-year old parents where the mom and dad had the same opportunities in sport, parents believed their children should have equal opportunities. You don't really have to fight for it now, because it's part of our culture."
It is part of today's culture because of the efforts of women like Marcy Weston, who have impacted, each in their own way, the fortunes of women's athletics.
"Working with young women was clearly a highlight, as was making a difference," she said. "I think I have made a difference officiating. I think I have made a difference coaching. I think I have made a difference at Central Michigan."