BOONE, N.C. — Fifty years have brought many changes to women’s athletics at Appalachian State University. But, based on interviews with female athletes from the 1970s, early 2000s and today, the heart of the student-athlete has remained much the same.
Four women from three different eras shared their experiences as Appalachian student-athletes. From the mid-1970s through current day, the culture of women’s athletics evolved, and the number of women’s sports options increased. Regardless of the time period, the Appalachian student-athletes shared Mountaineer pride, commitment to academics and a love of the university’s mountain location.
Senior psychology major Jamie Palermo said being a student-athlete at Appalachian is one of the greatest opportunities that she has ever been given. “I love Appalachian and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else,” she said.
Palermo was recruited during her junior year in high school to play soccer and received a scholarship to attend Appalachian. “My decision to attend Appalachian was based on how I felt about the location, the academics and also the soccer program,” she said. “We’re not only a team but a family, and I knew this was where I wanted to spend my four years.”
The history of women’s intercollegiate athletics at Appalachian paved the way for student-athletes like Palermo. Even before Title IX was introduced, Appalachian established field hockey in 1968 as the university’s first women’s sport.
Four years later, in 1972, the Title IX legislation was passed as part of the Education Amendments, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded schools. Women and men were required to have equitable opportunities to participate in sports.
“Now we have 190 women student-athletes competing on our 10 women’s intercollegiate varsity teams,” said Joey Jones, associate athletics director for strategic communications at Appalachian. Appalachian Athletics allocates more than $2.4 million in scholarships to women.
As in the early years at Appalachian, today’s women student-athletes place high importance on academic excellence. In fall 2017, they contributed to the 3.1 cumulative GPA for all Appalachian student-athletes, and the women’s cross-country team earned a 3.53 cumulative GPA.
Early years of women’s athletics at Appalachian
Dr. Katherine Davis, executive director for The Overton Institute in Atlanta, was a member of the Appalachian women’s gymnastics team from 1973–76 and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology 1977.
Davis said she didn’t choose Appalachian for her opportunity as a student-athlete. “I loved the mountains, and I came to Appalachian for an education. I didn’t even know there was a gymnastics team until I got there,” she explained.
Davis continued, “I had participated in gymnastics since the third grade, so I went to coach (Bill) Clinebell and asked to join the team, and he agreed to add me to the roster.”
“Within gymnastics, we were very respected,” Davis said. “We were one of the best in the Southeast at the time, and Clinebell was an excellent coach. I don’t think many people know that Appalachian hosted the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national gymnastics championships in the spring of 1976. That was a very big deal.”
Developing the discipline and tenacity required for gymnastics served Davis well later in life, she said. “Gymnastics is a sport where you compete as an individual, but that performance contributes to a team. That perspective has helped me in my professional career to understand how I need to be responsible for my own performance, yet realize how my role affects everyone else.”
One of Davis’ teammates, Dr. Valerie Striggow Ubbes ’79, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, was one of the first women’s gymnasts to be awarded an athletic scholarship at Appalachian.
Ubbes said, “Bill Clinebell was my coach early on in Toledo, before he came to Appalachian. He recruited me to come and was able to get me a small athletic scholarship, even though Appalachian really didn’t have scholarships for gymnastics then.”
Ubbes excelled in the sport and was one of three Appalachian students who competed in the AIAW championships in 1976. She also participated in track and field during her time at Appalachian, even though there was no women’s team.
She said, “Through my own initiative, I went to the athletic director, Jim Jones, and told him that I’d run track and had thrown the shot put while in high school. I asked if I could participate at Appalachian. He said that even though there wasn’t an opportunity to provide a team experience for me as a woman, I could work out with the men’s team and compete when possible. So, when the men went to meets where there was a women’s team, I traveled with them and competed.”
Ubbes added that she had no political agenda when she asked to join the track and field team in 1978. “I had no real awareness of Title IX; I just wanted to enjoy the sport. I was truly happy to do my first love, gymnastics, and then throw the shot put in our off season. It was fun.”
Appalachian’s women’s track and field program officially began in 1982.
Since graduating from Appalachian in 1979, Ubbes has coached All-Americans and national champions in gymnastics and track in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Big Ten.
“I’ve seen women’s athletics come a long way,” she said.
Midfield — Appalachian field hockey in the early 2000s
The opportunity to play collegiate field hockey brought Erica Adcock ’07 ’08 to Appalachian in 2003. “It’s hard to imagine my life if I had not gone to Appalachian. It’s where I met my husband, many of my closest friends and a place that is still so special to me,” she said.
Adcock earned athletic scholarship awards and was a three-time all-conference selection as a member of Appalachian’s field hockey program from 2003–06. After graduating in 2007 with a B.S.B.A. in accounting, she served as a graduate assistant coach for the team while completing her master’s in accounting. Adcock is now the head coach of the Myers Park High School varsity field hockey team in Charlotte.
“When I was on the Appalachian team, we played at Kidd Brewer Stadium on the same type of field turf that is in there now. It’s ideal for football, but slows the field hockey game down tremendously,” Adcock said. “We also shared the field with other sports, and so it made scheduling harder and we sometimes had to fight for our full practice time.”
Thanks in part to a lead gift from Adcock and her husband, Brandon Adcock ’06, who is also an Appalachian alum, the current team now has a field hockey-specific facility to use for practice and play. The Brandon and Erica M. Adcock Field has served as the team’s home field since 2014, with a stadium that seats 450 spectators.
“I am so thankful for the opportunities I had to earn scholarship awards at Appalachian as a student and as an athlete. Those financial awards helped allow me to learn and compete at the school I loved,” Erica Adcock said.
“As alumni, my husband and I both recognize the importance to pay it forward and help make student life and athletics better for future students at Appalachian.”
About Mountaineer Athletics
More than 450 student-athletes compete in 20 NCAA Division I varsity sports at Appalachian State University, 10 for men and 10 for women. Appalachian was a dominant force in the Southern Conference for more than 40 years before joining the Sun Belt Conference in July 2014 — one of 10 conferences that are members of the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Mountaineer football team claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons and bowl victories in 2015 and 2016, providing a catalyst for comprehensive excellence to grow across all Appalachian sports while competing at the highest levels of college athletics. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu/athletics.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.