Cohoon and Lewis will be honored as Difference Makers
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking legislation that guaranteed equal opportunity for women in sports. The directors of women’s athletics at the University of Arkansas, Ruth Cohoon and Bev Lewis, each had front row seats and, in fact, starring roles guiding the changes that would take place in Razorback athletics over the course of of the next half-century.
Razorback Athletics will celebrate Cohoon and Lewis, who, along with many other Razorback pioneers, paved the way for thousands of student-athletes by dedicating plaques in their honor at the Difference Makers Plaza near Gate 10 at the Northwest corner of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The official inauguration will take place this fall and details will be provided at that time.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we are proud to recognize two individuals who have been instrumental in creating opportunities for thousands of Razorback student-athletes,” said Vice Chancellor and Director. of sports Hunter Yurachek. “Ruth Cohoon spearheaded the creation of a women’s athletics department, integrating intramural and club sports into varsity curricula. After her stellar coaching career, Bev Lewis spent 19 years as Director of Women’s Athletics and was a driving force in the addition of four women’s sports, volleyball, golf, gymnastics and softball. Together, Ruth and Bev laid the foundation for the enduring success of our women’s athletic programs and made a difference for our athletics program and the University of Arkansas.
Ruth Cohoon came to college in 1965 as a 22-year-old swim instructor and quickly found herself a role model, an advocate for the education and advancement of women’s athletics, and a a difference maker who shaped the foundations of women’s athletics in Arkansas. .
During her career at Arkansas, she saw the first athletic scholarships offered to female students and coaching opportunities offered to female educators. Cohoon has consistently fought for more funding, better equipment, more scholarships and greater opportunities for female athletes.
Always eager to learn and grow, Cohoon expanded her role beyond teaching and teaching swimming and by 1971 she had volunteered to do additional administrative work which included collecting ratings of female athletes and their report to the NCAA. She was in the right place when Title IX was enacted and took on the role of director of the first university-funded women’s athletics program in 1972.
Cohoon oversaw a budget of $5,000 in 1972 and worked to improve that figure to $500,000 by the late ’70s. In 1979, she witnessed the combination of men’s and women’s programs under the umbrella of Intercollegiate Athletics at Arkansas. The programs, however, would operate separately, each with its own athletic director and support staff until fully unified in 2008.
Realizing that funding would be a major factor in advancing the women’s program, Cohoon orchestrated the formation of the Lady Razorback Club, a fundraising and scholarship program similar to the men’s Razorback Club.
Cohoon has served on the Board of Directors of AWISA, the Executive Board and Ethics and Eligibility Committee of SWAIAW, the Executive Board and Ethics and Eligibility Committee of AIAW, and the Committee NCAA academic requirements. Cohoon also served as secretary and treasurer of SWAIAW.
Cohoon retired from her administrative position in 1989 but continued to teach until 1999. She was replaced as Director of Women’s Athletics by Lewis in 1989, who held the position until the athletic department was restructured in 2008, and Lewis assumed a new position. . In 2008, the athletic department was reorganized to encompass men’s and women’s athletics under one administrative unit. The position of Director of Women’s Athletics was reorganized to become Associate Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics and Associate Executive Athletic Director, making Ruth Cohoon and Bev Lewis the only women to hold the title of Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Arkansas.
A 1965 graduate of the University of Tulsa, Cohoon earned her master’s degree in administration from the University of Arkansas.
Lewis was a pioneer in women’s athletics throughout her 33 years at the University of Arkansas, including 19 (1989-2007) as director of women’s athletics. The hallmark of this stint was the overall excellence of the entire women’s athletics program. During her tenure, the University of Arkansas moved to increase women’s athletic participation with the addition of volleyball, golf, gymnastics, and softball. All four sports have competed in NCAA postseason competition in the senior season of each inaugural recruiting class, and they have all established themselves as nationally competitive programs. Every female Razorback sport has reached a new height of athletic performance under her leadership.
Lewis’ career at Arkansas began in 1981 when she joined the Lady Razorbacks as a cross country track and field coach. Under her leadership, the cross country became the first women’s team to achieve a national ranking, finish in the top 10 at an NCAA championship, and capture the first Southwest Conference title in the United States. ‘university. As her career evolved, Lewis served in a dual capacity as coach and administrator, taking over as women’s athletics director in 1989. She stepped down from coaching responsibilities in 1990, devoting herself to the advancing the Arkansas women’s athletics program through her administrative role. . For nearly two decades, Lewis oversaw a separate women’s athletics department that catered to the unique needs of the female student-athlete. Adding four sports, building the largest women-only strength and conditioning center, and adding nutrition and mental health programs are just a few of the many advancements Lewis engineered.
Lewis received one of her greatest personal honors when Bob and Marilyn Bogle requested that a newly constructed administrative building dedicated to women’s athletics be named the Bev Lewis Center for Women’s Athletics in 2003. Lewis’s leadership was also the key to building Bogle Park and Razorback. Field, home of Razorback softball and Razorback football, respectively. Lewis has served collegiate athletics at the highest level as a trustee, as a member of the NCAA Board of Management, the NCAA Championship Cabinet, and the Southeastern Conference Executive Committee. In 1998, she was elected to the University of Arkansas Hall of Honor for her contributions as a coach and administrator.