SDSU Women’s Fund champions equity in athletics, academics

With $445,000 raised, including $50,000 from President Adela de la Torre and her husband, the fund, launched in 2022, seeks to bridge sports’ gender gap in resources and support.

Saturday, March 16, 2024
SDSU President Adela de la Torre with Aztecs softball outfielder Julie Holcomb. (SDSU)
SDSU President Adela de la Torre with Aztecs softball outfielder Julie Holcomb. (SDSU)

Quick: Name any of the women’s basketball teams that participated in “March Madness” in 2021.

Sorry, trick question. The NCAA trademarked the alliterative slogan in 1989 but, for more than three decades, restricted its use to the men’s tournament. It was not until 2022 that the branding expanded to the women’s brackets in what NCAA officials called a “first step” toward greater gender equity across the two championships.

Closing college sports' gender gap in opportunities, support and engagement for women's athletics inspired San Diego State University’s most recent philanthropic creations,  the SDSU Athletics Women’s Fund. The fund was established in October 2022 to provide additional support, derived entirely through donations, not just for the 12 San Diego State women’s teams, but the academic aspirations of their athletes as well. 

Jada Moore, a track and field standout with six SDSU records and multiple conference championships to her name, said such sports as lacrosse, swimming and her own activity are often overshadowed by higher-profile athletics.

“I feel like the women’s fund is a great way to show us support, and show us that we are valued and just help us get on the same level as the rest of the sports,” she said.

Still in its nascent stage, the fund has received a $50,000 boost from President Adela de la Torre and her husband, Stephen Bartlett. Their gift creates an endowment for the fund in their names, generating perpetual revenue for the program and, it is hoped, setting an example for future donors.

“I am very much a believer that if you want women's sports to exist, then you need to do something about it,” said Jenny Bramer, deputy director of athletics for people and culture, and an administrative overseer for the fund. “What really helps is people paying attention, and creating a mechanism for support.”

Bramer added: “This fund is an opportunity for people who want to act but don't have another simple way to act. It’s a clear and obvious investment.”

About 220 women athletes compete across the 12 teams at SDSU. “A lot of these women are 4.0 students who are going to go and be amazing citizens when they're done here,” Bramer said. “And you want to invest in their training ground of sports.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 sought to end sex-based inequality in educational programs at K-12 and postsecondary institutions that receive federal funding, including athletics. It has had a profound impact: girls’ participation rates in high school athletics are 11 times pre-Title IX levels, according to a 50th anniversary report from the NCAA. graduation rates. 

Since its inception, the SDSU Athletics Women’s Fund has raised $305,000 in gifts and pledges and an additional $140,000 to women’s sport-specific giving. De la Torre and Bartlett’s recent $50,000 for the fund endowment follows other transformational donations from the couple including:

  • $125,000 for the Oaxaca Center for Mesoamerican Studies Center Endowment, supporting faculty, staff and student travel to/from the Center; and
  • $250,000 toward a Student Financial Assistance Endowment, providing comprehensive support to students experiencing financial challenges to complete an academic semester.

Athletes fully appreciate the intent of the SDSU Athletics Women’s Fund.

Moore, interviewed while she was preparing to participate in a conference championship in Albuquerque, said the fund could provide valuable assistance in areas such as training, where needs often exceed available staffing.

But any academic support enabled through the fund is equally important, she hastened to add. A kinesiology major who hopes to go on to medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon, Moore said the success of Aztecs Going Pro ― which offers classes and summer internships to help athletes plan their transition into the workplace after graduation ― shows the benefit of attention in this sphere.

Donations to the SDSU Athletics Women’s Fund may be made online.

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