Former Redbird coach and women’s athletics advocate Jill Hutchison prepares for the MVC women’s championship game broadcast.
Jill Hutchison, M.S. ’69, has been a pioneer in women’s basketball. Drawn to sports as a child, Hutchison played softball and ran track. However it was when she first set foot on the basketball court in sixth grade that she knew she had found something she really loved.
But at the time the opportunities for men and women in athletics were anything but equal.
“It always upset me that we didn’t have the same opportunities that men had,” Hutchison said. “I decided that I was going to find a way for women to have the same opportunities.”
Hutchison enrolled at Illinois State for her graduate studies, noting that it was one of the few colleges in the nation at the time that offered women’s athletics, including an annual four-team tournament for women’s basketball at the school. She knew she had come to the right place.
After graduating, Hutchison began teaching physical education at the University and was named head coach of the women’s basketball team in 1970. All the while, she fought to shape the face of women’s athletics, testifying on Title IX, organizing the first collegiate basketball championship for women, and serving on the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) where she helped establish the regions and qualifying process for the tournament. Hutchison was also named as the first president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association in 1981.
“The proudest moment for me today is walking into a packed gym of people who appreciate women’s basketball,” Hutchison said. “Seeing where we are and knowing where we’ve been, it means a lot.”
However there is still work to be done. Research conducted by Hutchison showed that women’s athletics only receives approximately 2 percent of national media coverage.
“We still haven’t reached equality,” Hutchison said. “Media is a big part of this. There needs to be more coverage of the sports. Women’s athletics need to be on the front page of the newspaper instead of the fifth.”
Hutchison retired from coaching in 1999, and now does broadcast and streaming media for WJBC and the Valley. Having gone from player to advocate to coach to broadcaster gives Hutchison a unique vantage point. During games she finds herself focusing on the behaviors of players and coaches, in addition to how they respond to one another and situations that arise.
With the Redbirds in the championship of the MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament, Hutchison offered her perspective on the big game.
“You’re going to see some great basketball. Both teams have good athletes and are very well coached. Stephanie Glance is one of the best coaches in the country. Both teams need to win the tournament to get a spot in the NCAA tournament, so the stakes are high. But really the game comes down to pure pride, especially for ISU. There was a lot of talk going into the weekend about other schools, so this is an opportunity for the Redbirds to show how good they really are.”
Hutchison served as head women’s basketball coach for 28 seasons during which she achieved 461 wins, making her the winningest coach in the history of Illinois State University. Hutchison coached her teams to seven AIAW state championships, two AIAW national tournaments, seven WNIT appearances, and three NCAA tournaments. Hutchison is a three-time Rawlings MVC Coach of the Year, was head coach of the gold medalist 1983 USA World University Games Team and 1978 USA COPABA Junior Tournament Team, and is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.