Book Excerpts

Dr. Jim Peterson – Founder of Army Women’s Basketball

When Carol Barkalow’s layup lipped over the rim into the hoop on December 1, 1976, it was the first basket of a college women’s basketball program that would go on to great achievements, and not just on the court. The successful early teams of the Army women’s basketball program played a significant role in the acceptance of women at the United States Military Academy, best known as West Point.

Perhaps the only person at the time who saw this potential was its founder, Dr. James (Jim) Peterson, a professor in the Office of Physical Education, later renamed the Department of Physical Education. For nearly a year, Peterson had been working on physical education standards for women, and he knew the wall of resistance the first female enrollees faced among many male cadets, faculty, staff and administrators. 


…..Peterson, who had been at West Point since mid-1971, heard the academy’s first sport for women was going to be basketball, and that it would be the six-player game still played in Iowa high schools but fading out most other places in favor of the five-person game. “And somebody mentioned to me that the uniforms would be the little skirts as opposed to regular uniforms,” he said. “I kind of remember deciding at that time that that wasn’t going to fly.”

So Peterson approached his boss, Dr. James (Jim) Anderson ’56, the head of the physical education department, a venerated position at the academy known as Master of the Sword. Peterson was eager to start a women’s basketball team right away, only months after the first women had arrived at West Point on July 7, 1976. He could see a bigger value than just providing a sports outlet for women, though; that was important, too. Sports could be a way for women to show the grit and physical prowess so highly prized in West Point culture.

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Hoops and Heroes: The Inspiring History of Army West Point Women’s Basketball

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