Scott Chasen is a senior at the University of Kansas, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in news and information. Scott’s parents, Jeff and Jaime, live in Olathe, Kansas, along with Scott’s younger sister, Zoey. Scott is a middle child with two sisters, Julia and Zoey, although he does have four brothers if you count dogs.
Scott decided to pursue journalism as a career after moving from Tulsa, Okla. to Olathe, Kan. before his senior year of high school. He began writing for a blog covering University of Kansas athletics, in addition to working as a broadcaster at his high school, Olathe Northwest.
Since that time, Scott has covered the Phoenix Suns and Bakersfield Jam for ValleyoftheSuns.com. He has also covered both KU men’s and women’s basketball for the University Daily Kansan and was the sports editor for the publication in his junior year. Scott spent the summer of 2016 covering the Kansas City Royals as an Associate Reporter for MLB.com and will be starting at the Topeka Capital-Journal as a sports correspondent in September. He is also a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Marlene Mawson knew it wouldn’t be easy to bring the national volleyball tournament to Kansas. With a budget one half of 1 percent of the men’s athletic program, she knew everything had to run perfectly.
Mawson met with Dr. Joie Stapleton, her mentor and chairman of the women’s Department of Physical Education, but it was left to Mawson to make it happen.
In finalizing the request, she reached out to Allen Fieldhouse staff members, hoping the tournament could be hosted there. The answer she received was short and dismissive.
“We don’t have to negotiate with you,” she was told.
That didn’t stop Mawson from submitting the proposal using a different venue: Robinson Gymnasium. With only two courts, Robinson was smaller, but Mawson’s proposal won out. KU hosted the 1971 tournament.
Four decades later, Mawson walked across Allen Fieldhouse’s Naismith Court. She stood on the once forbidden ground for female athletes as she was inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
As she recalled the memory, she smiled.
“We did it,” she said.
At 75 years old, it has all come full circle for Mawson. Yet the path was never easy.
The “Mother of KU Women’s Athletics” was nothing of the sort when she accepted an unknown, undefined job as a 28-year-old in 1968.
Armed with a $2,000 budget and a clear message there would be no additional support, Mawson set out to establish a women’s athletics program in a time when gender equity was the last thing on anyone’s mind.
“When I got to KU, it was sort of like, ‘Wow, we got $2,000. That’s a lot of money,’”
Mawson said. “I didn’t realize the men had ($541,000).”
But she made do.
In 1971, Mawson’s women’s basketball team travelled to Cullowhee, N.C., for what eventually became the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
That same year the men’s basketball team reached the Final Four in Houston. It took planes and stayed in hotels, while Mawson and her team rode in station wagons, rotating drivers and passengers, who slept on air mattresses.
When they finally arrived at the Western Carolina University host site, they couldn’t afford hotel rooms. They slept in a lounge on the second-floor of a dorm.
On similar trips, players volunteered cars and paid for gas, but that was the reality. If anything was going to happen for Mawson and the student-athletes, it was on them.
Even though “Kansas” was stitched across their jerseys, they were their own entity.
“Who was going to help me?” Mawson said. “We had 14 faculty members; 10 of them were men who couldn’t have cared less.”
That didn’t deter her from trying. As an instructor, administrator and coach on a women’s athletic staff of three, Mawson spent every minute of her day and every ounce of energy devoted to an important fight. The women deserved a chance to compete.
“Their grandmothers did not get to play; their mothers may not have even gotten to play,” Mawson said. “This is not something they should take for granted.”
Mawson grew up as a competitor. She grew up as a fighter. She learned to express herself through sports. In high school, Mawson played softball and basketball.
Throughout college, she added volleyball, and continued to play while teaching high school and pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Colorado.
That was the type of person needed to lead the charge: Someone who was wired differently. Someone who sought competition and wasn’t afraid of a challenge.
“A lot of people wouldn’t step up be active in professional organizations,” said Joan Wells, who played volleyball and softball for Mawson from 1968-71. “She did.”
As a coach, Mawson wasn’t the type to get in a player’s face. She was a teacher. She told her players to keep the final goal in mind, but to take things one step at a time.
Nothing is given; everything is earned.
Mawson officially retired from coaching in 1975. She left the University in 1990 but she continues to promote women’s sports by speaking with players, coaches and University administrators.
As an avid women’s volleyball follower, Mawson can be seen at most home games. She also appears behind the scenes, telling stories of how things used to be to an attentive audience.
“I introduced her to the team, and they quickly figured out that obviously we have things a little bit better than what they did,” KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard said.
Mawson is not solely responsible for the growth of women’s sports, nor has her work led to total gender athletic equality. This year, the budget for men’s athletics at Kansas is $37 million. For women, it’s $15 million.
However, Mawson brought Kansas through a major shift, a major culture change. Before, KU accommodated women, so long as it didn’t interfere with what the men were doing. Today, it’s about trying to create equity.
It’s not about finding somewhere to stick the women. It’s having the women’s basketball team play in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s constructing Rock Chalk Park, a $39 million facility that will ultimately house four women’s sports.
All of that sends a clear message.
“When you know you’re important and you see things being built for you … that goes a long way,” said Debbie Van Saun, Kansas associate athletics director and senior woman administrator.
And it all started with one person.
From where she started in 1968, to the first time she stepped foot in Rock Chalk Park, an experience she described as both exhilarating and pride-inducing, Mawson has left her mark on Kansas. With nothing more than $2,000 and a desire for women to have the same opportunities as men, she started a culture shift at a major institution.
And even more than that, she’s inspired the next generation with a strong, consistent
“I was 28 when I came to KU. You think about a 28-year-old now and you think, ‘Oh they can’t do that,’” Mawson said. “But nobody ever told me I couldn’t.”