STILL: My name's Valerie Still and I'm conducting an interview with Sue Feamster
on February 10th, 2021 for the U.K. Women's Basketball Oral History Project for
the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky. Sue,
can you please state your name, affiliation with UK women's basketball, and the
years you were at UK?
FEAMSTER: Yes, my name is Sue Feamster, I was women's basketball coach and the
athletics director for women um from 1974 to 1970, 1992. And uh I stayed at UK
for twenty plus years uh in a couple of positions there.
STILL: Great, well, we've already done a couple of sessions and we will do many
more Sue, you're quite the figure. I, I call you the godmother of UK women's
basketball, UK women's sports in general. But before we get started,
00:01:00I would like to pay respect and remember our lady cat sister Laura Schwager. Um,
Sue. She was one of your Lady Cats originals in 1974. And I know she was really
dear to you. I know in our last session you were telling me that you were
actually getting ready to go visit her because she, you know, it was, you knew
something was imminent at that time. And Laura, just a little bit on her. Laura
graduated in 1970 from Assumption High School in Louisville. She was an
outstanding scholar and athlete. She competed in field hockey, basketball and
track. And at, in high school, she was voted her senior class, most athletic,
and she played in summer softball leagues and tournaments throughout the region
where she was a pis--a pitching ace, actually. Uh, she graduated, she attended
University of Kentucky and like I said previously, graduated in 1975 with a B.A.
in Education. And she was on that in, that famous 1974 '75 Lady Cats
00:02:00team with no scholarships. The first year that the women's team was reinstated
as a varsity sport after 50 years of being banned at UK. As you know, she also
played field hockey for Lady Cats, as well as intramural football. She played
purely for the love of sports and the ensuing lifelong friendships with UK
teammates and coaches such as yourself. After she left UK, she got her M.A. from
Western Kentucky University. But then she returned to Louisville to begin her
dream job at Assumption as an educator for eight years. She was a loved teacher
and coach. She was celebrated for a fierce commitment, profound compassion and
unwavering support towards her students. She was so inspiring to her students
that they named her twice Teacher of the Year. And then in 2020, she received a
permanent recognition by the school, naming a classroom in her honor and then
also awarded an annual scholarship in her name. Laura was a coach and
00:03:00teacher to future lady cats. This is incredible, including one on the 1982 SEC
championship team. Um, leaving Assumption in '84, she embarked on a career in
corporate training and eventually established her own wellness and health
consultant company called Wellness Lifestyles. In 2014, she was diagnosed with
the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. And um Sue, just tell us a little bit
about her and what she meant to you and to the UK's women's basketball program.
FEAMSTER: Well, as you know, this is a very difficult subject for me to talk
about. Um Laura was a, I guess you would say one of my girls, and uh she's one
of those uh students that maintained a friendship with me after she left
college. And in her adult years, uh we became very close. Um Laura
00:04:00was a, played field hockey and basketball for me when I was the field hockey
coach. She was left handed, so she was our left wing. Very fast, very good with
the stick. Um she was also guard on our basketball team. At that time, we played
a two guard system, guards, two forwards, and center. And uh she started most,
most of the time she started. Uh she was an excellent guard, excellent passer.
But the most important thing, I think that I'll always cherish about Laura is
her enthusiasm. She came with a smile on her face like was she had been in
trouble? Or was she just enthusiastic about coming to play that day, coming to
practice? and uh one of the greatest smiles you'll ever, ever see on
00:05:00a person, beautiful. Uh beautiful person, and she, she excelled not only in her
play, but in her friendships, and she was distinctly loyal to her teammates.
They were sort of her family, and uh I got to know Lara really quite well
because she worked in my office on work study.
FEAMSTER: Uh she was from a large Catholic family in Louisville. They would
always, when we would go down to play the University of Louisville, they would
always put up a number of our, our team, teammates and their house. That meant
feeding them, transporting them over to the--you know, they just brought them
over to where we're going to play and stayed with us. So her family I have known
for nearly forty years. And um, she just was a, an, an all-around
00:06:00outstanding individual, a really solid athlete, but most importantly, just a
very wonderful and loyal friend and unfortunately, she passed away last Friday,
February the 5th of, of an advanced stage Alzheimer's. And, if I could tell you,
you mentioned earlier about the scholarship and the room that's dedicated to
Assumption High School. Uh I was invited down by Assumption to talk about the,
the, putting her in the Hall of Fame. And at that time they had, they were
reworking how they were going to do that, so they offered some other
opportunities uh for Laura's family to honor her. And we wanted this
00:07:00to be a surprise, and this was last year.
FEAMSTER: And we started working on this in the fall of, of 2019. But in early
2020, we sent out a letter to many, many of Laura's classmates, her teammates,
her workmates, all the people whose lives she had touched and we needed to raise
twenty-five thousand dollars to have this room named after her. Within five
days, we raised twenty-five thousand dollars--
FEAMSTER: --[in fact, we may raise more than twenty five]-thousand dollars, we
raised something like uh thirty-five, thirty-seven thousand dollars, so we
thought, what are we going to do with this extra money? That's where the
scholarship piece came in. So we sent out a second letter in uh early
00:08:00February last year, thanking everybody for their prolific donations. And saying
we, we've secured the room being named after her, and we'd like to now do a
scholarship, so we basically sent out a second letter. And within two weeks, we
had enough money, which has totaled up to fifty thousand dollars to name that
scholarship. We then had a surprise award ceremony last April. Um, because of
COVID, only fifty of us were invited to be there. And it was a total surprise to
Laura and she was just taken back. And it was so well deserved and we had the,
the young lady that really received her first scholarship was there, and Laura
got to meet her and she got to talk with Laura. And it was a
00:09:00wonderful ceremony. And I think that example of wonderful donations that we
received, that Laura's family received, is a reminder of what an enthusiastic
and passionate person she was and the many lives that she affected uh during her
lifetime. Her funeral will be uh this coming Saturday. On Friday night um, we
will have a remembrance at the funeral home. And what's really interesting,
we're going to play the uh Atherton fight song and the UK fight song and then
have a lot, share a lot of memories of Laura. And I'm really looking forward to
this, what I would call a celebration of life. And what a wonderful life it, it
has been. Well, that's the story of Laura Schwager, an early pioneer
00:10:00at UK and the club sports and on our first varsity team, where she was captain.
STILL: Wow. Powerful. Sue, with that said, what, when you were just talking
about that team, did, what did you all think in '74, did they recognize, you
know, when you're that young, you don't recognize that it's historic after fifty
years, the, because they even know or because they some of them were playing
intramural and club. Did they even know the significance of it being reinstated
that year? Did you know the significance? You knew the significance of it, but
did they? And how did you, did you all handle that?
FEAMSTER: Well, I think, and I believe, that sometimes when you're in
00:11:00the moment of a historical event, which I think this was for the University of
Kentucky and for University of Kentucky women, and all the women that have come
after them. And the Title IX, for all the women that it has opened doors for in
uh graduate school, law school, medical school, et cetera, et cetera. Title IX
was not just about athletics. I think that, for the most part, the young women
that played sports, that started playing then, as a varsity team member, were
just so enthusiastic and excited that were recognized as a varsity sport that
they, they weren't concerned about the history making of this event. Um, I was
somewhat aware of it, but I've become more aware of it as the years
00:12:00have passed as to what it really, truly means. And when I say that uh, you're a
living example of what it means. Your ability to uh go into modeling, to play
basketball around the world, to become an all-American, to go to graduate
school. Uh, the advantages, and I, I mentioned this in one of my earlier
conversations with you. The advantages that playing a sport give you in terms of
building your confidence, building your character, learning to play with
teammates, whether you like them or not. That give and go that you have with
teammates, uh being defeated and getting up and turning things around
00:13:00and figuring out what, what did we, what could we have done better to have won
that game? Those things uh prepare you for life because that's what life is
about and. And if it was good for men and it built their character, it sure has
built a woman's women's character and, and that's what I always said about it at
the time. And uh I remember somebody asked me, and perhaps it was in a newspaper
article and perhaps you've read this, but someone asked me, well, why didn't you
give all the scholarship money out? Uh because when we first began giving
scholarship money, we didn't we, didn't allocate it all, and I said we aren't
just giving scholarships to everyone that walks through the door. We're giving
scholarships to women who, of skill. Women who are deserving, who
00:14:00have played and um we'll continue to do that, and look for highly skilled women
in sports and people that we think deserve scholarships. And um, fortunately,
I've had that live long enough, I think, to instill at UK that's the way things
will be done in the future.
FEAMSTER: So we didn't really realize we were making history. And when sport
started, when sportswriters started really following us, that's when we started
to realize that we were having an impact on, on all of Kentucky at least. And
the other schools in Kentucky that, particularly the high schools.
STILL: Wow. Sue, we, we ended our last session in '76 as you were transitioning
from coaching to full time A.D. I just want to revisit this fact
00:15:00about you. You saying what you just did, how meticulous you, I think that was
probably one of your um most valuable traits as an athletic, of course, as a
coach, it helps, but as an administrator, you were so meticulous about records,
you were meticulous about your requests and how strategically you were going to
do them and how you made those decisions. In 1975, you petitioned Joe, um Dean
Joe Birch in April after women's first uh, after that first season that you guys
didn't have scholarships and you informed him that you all needed an increase in
competition. You needed some funding because the competition was going to get greater--
STILL: --like at EKU and you had, you needed that. So you petitioned for twelve
full scholarships, were. And scholarships at that time for people that don't
know, was twenty-five hundred dollars to start the fall semester of 1975.
So you also requested a budget increase of nearly, I don't know if
00:16:00you remember this, of nearly thirty-five thousand dollars to meet that growing
demand because you understood, like you were on the leading edge looking what
the projections were going to be. So you knew you were going to need coaching
salaries, an athletic trainer. Another report you summarized the progress of
women's athletics. And '75, '76, when you were getting ready to transfer over,
that included hiring coaches and trainers and secretaries. And this is way
before anybody's doing this in the country. And, and then by the fiscal year,
1975, the number of women participants totaled between a hundred and a hundred
and twenty-five athletes and six varsity and three club sports. And you had a
budget of a hundred thousand dollars, and that's when UK announced this whole
athletic scholarship program um that they would initiate. And that's how you
begin, you know, has, divvying out all these scholarships and how you
00:17:00were going to do that. Where did you get that kind of know-with-all to keep
those kind of records and to be strategic about what you were doing in that way?
FEAMSTER: Well um, somehow, Valerie. Somehow, I mean, I knew that records would
be important, number one. And that had been instilled in me um by my mother, I
think, and my dad, who was an accountant--
FEAMSTER: --to keep good records, but also, of, of when, when the original
Women's Athletics Committee was going through and we had documented uh records,
the previous people before us also kept good records. So first of all, records
were very important. In terms of knowing what was coming um, I think
00:18:00I instinctively knew, and I say that uh, I sort of have an ability which, it's
not an acquired ability, it's just something I, it's, it's like, it's like a
FEAMSTER: --that I need to store away nuts. I call it instinct. Uh, I
instinctively knew that we would need certain things. And in terms of vision uh
many people have talked about me being a visionary. Um, I think in many cases
that's, that's a true application, but my father told me one time I was too far
in front of people. And he said, "You know, you can" and I'll give an
00:19:00example of that. The, all of the scoreboards across all of the campuses, the
whole campus at UK, whether it was on the football field, the basketball, you
know, Memorial Coliseum, baseball, anything, our scoreboards were fifty years
old. And you'll remember this from being, playing in the Coliseum. The
scoreboard at the Coliseum didn't go to a hundred points, it went to ninety-nine.
STILL: No, I didn't know. When I was there?
FEAMSTER: When you were there.
STILL: We were scoring over 100 points.
FEAMSTER: I know it, they just roll over and start again one-oh-one, no, they
wouldn't start one-oh-one they start one, three, four.
FEAMSTER: So I instinctively knew uh, or had a vision for, what would
00:20:00be needed? And it was really right in front of us, it was what the men already
had. The men already had trainers, they already had travel mechanisms, they
already had a training facility, they already had assistant coaches, and we
didn't have full time coaches. I mean, it was all right there encapsulated. But
also, in terms of facilities, uh UK's facilities needed to be upgraded and. But
back to this vision thing um, I always knew, and I was pretty far out, and my
dad told me one day. He said um, you know, he said, "Let me, sit down here, I
want to talk to you about this", he said, "You can see things so far out that
everybody can't see. And what you need to understand is most people
00:21:00can only see just a little bit in front of themselves, a foot, a day, a month,
maybe even a year. They can't see five years, they can't imagine where they'll
be, where the world will be, what, what this would be like. And you can see well
beyond that, you need to shorten your look and just be this far out." And I've
always tried to practice that, I didn't always accomplish that. I thought when
we built Rupp Arena. That Rupp Arena, or the football stadium, rather, that we
should put a dome on it, we should have played basketball there, we could have
been able to have world events there and that we should have put all of the
hotels that are downtown out on the front lawn of the campus to accommodate
all those sporting events that we could have had there. And um I did
00:22:00get two votes on that committee on the football stadium committee. Uh but if you
look at the money we've spent--
FEAMSTER: --in upgrading everything and building Rupp Arena, and you know, we
could have had all of that and a fabulous facility right on campus. So--
STILL: --hey Sue, that, that still may happen.
FEAMSTER: Well, it may. Who knows.
STILL: -- you know, when we do, you're going to say, "I told you so". No, I'm
FEAMSTER: Okay, yeah. (??)--
STILL: --but let's uh, let's um--
STILL: --let's so, that 1975, '76 season you're coaching still and your
responsibilities are just increasing so much that you make that decision that,
you know, that's going to be your last year for coaching and you're going to
devote all your time to, because it was needed too, to the, to the young program.
STILL: So you appoint your first, you're appointed as the first
00:23:00director of women's athletics. And your first hire is Debbie Yow in July 1976 as
a first full time women's basketball head coach. Now, I researched this because
there were some that thought that Teresa Grant, who was hired by Rutgers that
year, she was at Immaculata, but she, they hired her, but they hired her in
August of 1976. So Debbie Yow was the first full time, and that didn't mean
there were coach, not head coaches being paid. But most of those coaches had to
coach, they had to teach what they were doing, administrative work like you were
doing. So this was the first time that their duties would only be as a head
coach. You not only did that, but you hired the first full time accredited
women's basketball trainer and Mimi Porter. That was unheard of in the United
States at the time. And you gave full scholarships to Ceal Barry, Pam Browning,
Missy Combs, Ann Deters, Linda Edelman, Mary Galloway, Debbie Mack,
00:24:00Deborah Oden and Janet Timperman. This is ahead of his time and that's what you
did. Now, before we get to Debbie Yow, your first choice for head coach was not
STILL: Who was your first choice for, for, for coach and why, and why didn't
that come through?
FEAMSTER: Um, my first choice for head coach to replace me was Pat Head, Pat
Head Summit. I don't believe Pat was married at the time, she was still Pat Head--
STILL: --(??) Pat Head.
FEAMSTER: And she was coaching at Tennessee and it goes back to me knowing her
as a player and having played against her in college as a club team. And knowing
that her intense, her intense love and passion for basketball. Uh I,
00:25:00and she was already coaching at Tennessee, that she would be the type of person
I wanted to take over because I had a good team. I left somebody with a good
team. So what happened with the uh, with the uh Pat, Pat Head Summitt, Pat Head
at the time recruitment. I called her and I said, "Pat, we're hiring a full time
basketball coach at Kentucky, I want you here. I've always wanted you here,
we've talked about this before", and she said, "Sue, I'll come." And I said,
"Great." And I said, "We're paying" uh, I think the salary started out. Now,
Pat's book has slightly different numbers to it. But basically, what
00:26:00I remember about it, is we had eight thousand dollars for the first basketball
coach, full time. And she said, "I don't, I don't care about the money, I'll
come". So I said, "Great." Um so she went in to resign that day. And she called
me about a day or two later and she said, "Sue, uh they have offered me
eighty-five hundred dollars to stay here at Tennessee." And I said, "Oh, okay",
I said, "Alright." I said, "Let me see, I'm pretty sure I can match that." So I
trot over to the Dean's office. Now, Dean of Students at the time, we were still
under Dean of Students. We didn't have a lot of money. I mean, the Dean of
Students didn't have a lot of money. Five hundred dollars was like in
00:27:00their discretionary fund to spend. And so he said, "Is this the person you
want?" I said, "It is", and he said, "Match it. I'll give you, I'll find that."
FEAMSTER: So I call Pat up, I run back to the office, we didn't have cell phones
or anything, I call Pat up. And I said, "Pat, we'll match that money". I said,
"We'll match it." And she says, "I'm packing." So a couple days later, I get a
phone call and she said, Sue. She said, "They've offered me nine thousand
dollars." And I said, "Pat, I think I can get another five hundred dollars", I
said, "But I need a commitment from you that you're coming." And I said um,
"I'll call you back within thirty minutes." So I run back to the
00:28:00Dean's office, Dean's gives me another five hundred dollars, which is now at
nine thousand dollars. And I called Pat back and I said, "Pat, I've got it." She
says, "I'm coming, this is end of it, I don't want to get into a bidding war."
She said, "I will come and see you on Monday", and this must have been close to
Thursday or Friday. She said, "I'll be up there on Monday." So over the weekend,
she goes home and talks to her parents. And in, in talking with Pat, I knew her
parents were big Kentucky fans because they listened to Kentucky on the radio.
And this is before big time television things really got going in the SEC. And
so Monday morning, I get a call from Pat, and she said, "Sue, I, I
00:29:00was home over the weekend and talked to my family and, and talked to them about
coming here or staying in Tennessee." And she says, "While they all think this
is a wonderful opportunity for me to come. And build a program at Kentucky,
we're all wonderful Kentucky fans. And I don't want to get into another bidding
war of more money, more money", she said, "I'm from Tennessee. My family
believes I should be at Tennessee. And that's my final decision." Well, I said,
"Pat, I honor you for that decision. I wish it was a different one, but you've
made it. I honor you for being loyal to Tennessee because you're from
00:30:00Tennessee. But I hate that decision, and I'll always hate it. I get off the
phone and I think I threw that phone through the whole--
FEAMSTER: --into, into a blithering. I was so, so disappointed, so, so
disappointed because I knew how great she would be. So that's the Pat Head
Summitt story, and my version is I relive with it, and let me tell you one other
little caveat Pat said. Um, when we knew Pat was, I knew something was wrong
with Pat, because she'd been in a couple of Final Fours and I had watched her
stand on the floor and just gaze--
FEAMSTER: --and not do anything, not call a timeout, not make a
00:31:00change of personnel or anything, and I thought. And I could look back on this
now and say she had this then. She was having difficulty then, in the last
couple of final fours she was in, her behavior, I thought, was very strange on
the court. Because usually when she stood up, she'd made a change. She didn't
just stare off in the distance. Anyway, some friends of mine call me and ask
could I arrange to go down for a practice. Uh, and watch, watch, watch the
Tenne--UT practice, and I said, "I'm sure I can." I said, "Let me call Pat and
we'll, I'll get a date and we'll all go down." So we did. And this was um just
before she announced. This was in the spring and uh then I don't
00:32:00remember the date, but just before she announced she was retiring. So we go
down, watch Tennessee. Of course, we're in the Coliseum there, which is all
orange and white, but it's mostly Pat Summitt. It's mostly her and all the wins
and all the championships and everything. And I'm, I'm, I'm thinking and one of
my, one of my friends who had wanted to go, she said, "Can you believe this
should have happened at Kentucky?" I said, "Oh, I know it should have happened
at Kentucky, believe me."
FEAMSTER: And so, anyway, we're on the floor and um, Pat was down signing
autographs for these folks and I waited in line and walked up to her as the last
one and she said, "Hello Sue, how are you doing?" I said, "Pat, I'm doing
great". I said, "How are you?" And she said, "I'm fine. She said,
00:33:00"Can you believe this?" She said, "This should have all been at Kentucky."
FEAMSTER: "I would have made you a very rich woman."
FEAMSTER: And I said, "Yes, Pat, and do you remember I told you that was the
worst decision I'd ever heard?" That was our last exchange and I've got the
basketball she autographed for me.
FEAMSTER: [Said some] personal words, but um she was one in a million.
STILL: How things would have been different, huh? And it's amazing how history
is, but it was meant to be the way it was because--
FEAMSTER: --it was--
STILL: --with that nine thousand, hey, with that now that you had nine thousand
dollars to go get--
FEAMSTER: --a coach, yeah--
STILL: --a coach. So what was your thought process in that, you don't have Pat
Head. What were you thinking then?
FEAMSTER: Yeah, what we did, well, I was, I was so disappointed. I mean, it
probably took me two weeks to even run and even then. For the job--
STILL: --for, no, for--
FEAMSTER: --for the basketball--
STILL: --oh yeah, I think you went out, yeah, for head coach--
STILL: --what, what was your process? Okay, now who's your second third? Where's
your, who's on your short list, Sue?
FEAMSTER: --that's, I didn't have a short list. I had one person on that list.
STILL: --(laughs)-- it was short.
FEAMSTER: I had one person and that was Pat Head. So I started looking around uh
the country and talked to some other A.D.s and things like that, because, you
know, you've got the process that if you [want to interview] someone that's
working at another facility, another college or university, you call the A.D.
and get permission to talk to them.
STILL: Wow, that was happening even though? Because these women, there wasn't a
full time coach--
STILL: --they were all teachers or they were teaching--
FEAMSTER: --that's true, they were teaching, coaching, things like that--
STILL: --but you still had to contact--
FEAMSTER: --well it was just a, you know, it was just a respect thing.
FEAMSTER: You didn't do it behind, you know, behind closed doors and people not
knowing about it. So um, I then develop a short list, but also send out, send an
advertisement out, a national search. And uh, I got five or six hundred
--(laughs)--people wanting to come--
FEAMSTER: --and coach at UK--
FEAMSTER: --mostly men, mostly men, high school coaches that wanted to come.
Some men that were in college coming, and I had already decided I was, I was not
going to hire a man. Not because I didn't think a man could do the job, I
thought the job should go to a woman and that we needed to, in all the sports
that we had at UK, hire women, if they were available and if they
00:36:00were good. And you have to look. You have to, you have to search. So um one of
the names that came up for me was Deborah Yow. And I had interviewed several
other coaches, and I know you, don't ask me who they were, I don't remember. But
anyway, I went to meet Deborah Yow. She flew into our little airport and we
didn't have the new Lexington airport, the little round--
FEAMSTER: --old timey airport that we had there, where we only had one gate. And
when she got off the plane, she came in and, and she just kind of looked the way
I wanted someone to look. Um, so she looked right. She was very friendly and she
came in and, and I picked her up and took her back to the uh, to at
00:37:00that time, the Seaton Building, which is where my offices were and we talked and
we talked about um strategies and how she would coach and what she'd been doing,
and she was a young person, I don't remember Deborah's age, but she was, she was
STILL: --I think she was twenty-five and she was coaching high school at the time.
STILL: --I think, she hadn't even coached any college, right?
FEAMSTER: No. Well, hardly anybody was coaching college anyway, so,--
FEAMSTER: --I wasn't concerned about that. I wasn't really concerned about it. I
was more concerned about uh would she do a job coaching. [So anyway, after she
left] uh She moved up to number one on my list, but I, I called a number of
coaches, her being from North Carolina, and talked to one of them, and one of
them I talked to was her sister.
STILL: I was going to ask--
FEAMSTER: --I was like, hey--
FEAMSTER: -- Kay Yow. And I'll tell you exactly what Kay told me. Kay
00:38:00said, "Sue, she's very young, she knows how to play the game. She might be a
little short on X's and O's right now, but she will learn. And um, the question
I asked her was, would she hire her to take her place? She didn't hesitate. She
said I would.
STILL: Well, that's her little sister too, Sue! She's not going to--
FEAMSTER: --that's her little sister.
STILL: She's not going to say--
FEAMSTER: --that's right--
STILL: --she wouldn't hire her little sister.
FEAMSTER: Well, you know, no--
STILL: --I'm just joking, Kay Yow wouldn't, yeah, I knew Kay. She was my coach
on the Olympic team for--
FEAMSTER: --you know that.
STILL: Uh huh.
FEAMSTER: You know that.
FEAMSTER: And you know, she's--
FEAMSTER: --she's, if anything, she's honest. And so that was enough
00:39:00for me and I extended the offer to Deborah, she accepted, she came, and the rest
of her career is history. It's history at UK, uh she went on to become an
administrator, a fabulous administrator, a good coach, and she's had a wonderful
career and set all sorts of records herself--
STILL: --and Sue, from what I, what I heard, that she took a pay cut that year,
she was making eleven thousand at high, as a high school coach and but she took
that nine thousand dollars anyways.
FEAMSTER: Well that, that tells you how far behind our salaries were at UK.
STILL: I know. Wow. Well, so you have Debbie Yow. You hire, how, how does the um
hiring of Mimi Porter come about?
FEAMSTER: Well, Mimi um, Mimi was a student, had been a student at UK
00:40:00and was now in graduate school. And I knew Mimi from her work with uh the
Women's Athletic Association, which was just a, an association uh within the
physical education department, et cetera. And I got to know Mimi really well,
because through Mimi, we sponsored [the] first high school invitational
basketball tournament held in fifty years at UK. And um, so Mimi and I had
gotten to know each other, and then she was in graduate school, so I'd see her
every day and I saw her one day and I said, "Mimi, come in here, you got a few
minutes to talk to me?" And she came into my office and I said, "Mimi, what,
what do, what do you study and what are you going to do, you know?"
00:41:00And she says, "Well, I don't know," you know, she's, "Getting my Master's". And
I said, "Well, let me tell you something. I'm going to be hiring a trainer. I
will be hiring a women's trainer for basketball and for athletics, and I thought
maybe you might be interested in that." And she said, "You know, I might be."
She said, "Let me think about it, and let me talk to my husband about it." Well,
she came back on Monday and she said, "You know, I'm really interested in that."
And she said, "What do we need to do?" And I said, "Well, the first thing we
need to do is find out how we get you certified, because I want a certified
trainer. I don't want just somebody that tapes up people when you can learn to
do that. I want a real certified trainer." So I went up to um the training
facility on campus there for the men, and at that time a fellow named
00:42:00Joe Dan was, was the head trainer. And he tells me all what you have to do to
become a trainer. So you had to do a certification process, and at that time
there were no learning to be a trainer things in college, there weren't any
curriculums for it at all. You had to, you usually come from the military, uh
you were a, a, um, medic in the military and you got a job and you learned how
to tape people up and that kind of thing. And, and that's usually where people
came from, the military. And she, and he said, "Well, the other way you can
learn is that they have a, you have to study for two thousand hours under a
certified trainer, which I am." He said, "I'd be willing to take her on." Well,
I was just you know, you, the thing about UK was, There was not
00:43:00really a reluctance at UK for women to play.
FEAMSTER: Not like there was in the deep southern states of the SEC. It was vile
and vicious. We had a very acceptance uh of women being in athletics and women
um participating and women being coaches and women being trainers. So, so when
Mimi came back, I told her, I said, "Well, we'll find out Mimi, and, and here's
what you need to do. She said, "Well, that sounds okay." So I take her up to
meet Joe Dan. And she agrees to do this and that's how we got started. And then,
of course, we had to find a training room, so we have a training room. So we
looked around there in the Seaton Building and it had a lot of women's lockers,
FEAMSTER: --I mean, I think every woman that was in physical
00:44:00education, she could have had three lockers, you know what I'm saying? I mean,
it was just overbuilt. So what we did is we um, I talked to Mr. Johnson, who
was, was still who I reported to, and in the back of the women's locker room was
this huge space where they didn't put another row of lockers. Now I said, "You
know, if we just put a door here by these lockers, we could have a training room
in here". And he said, "You know, you're right." Well, he built it for me.
STILL: No way.
FEAMSTER: He built it for me. And so, of course, we had to go down to physical
education and tell them we're going to take over the back of the locker [room],
which we had a few grumblings around. But I wasn't any big deal because we
agreed to tape everybody. And then Mimi and I went down to the state in
Frankfort. When they had auction houses, they had these big warehouses filled
with old desks, furniture, equipment, all sorts of things that, that
00:45:00were. In Kentucky, when you didn't use anything more and it belonged to the
state, you shipped it down to this warehouse. So we found all sorts of things
down their tables that we could, you know, you could sit on and be taped from,
we found a whirlpool, we found uh, um, um storage, big storage cabinets where we
could put tape and instruments and everything that we needed. And then Joe Dan
made us a list of things we needed to purchase, and we were off to the races and
we had a trainer.
STILL: A trainer and a training room--(laughs)--
FEAMSTER: --and a trainer in a training room. And soon, across the state at all
the state schools. I think we were the first in the country--
FEAMSTER: --to have a trainer, uh.
STILL: Yeah, I think so, too. I believe so.
FEAMSTER: And I know Mimi was one of the first women to get a
00:46:00certification and um, by the way, there's, there's three sections that test, and
she scored a hundred points, I mean she aced it all, shouldn't miss a question.
FEAMSTER: And, of course, as you know, Mimi has gone on to be not just training,
be a trainer for humans. She's an equine trainer and therapist. And has written
several books and is highly sought after in equine training. Um, and that came
about, she was always interested in horses and rode horses but --
FEAMSTER: --uh when we took the basketball team to travel in Europe and Japan,
we'd gone out to the uh racetrack to see them. They're racetrack's in Japan and
uh, Mimi had found out about this electric blanket for horses. And
00:47:00that's where her real interest started peaking and um, um, we didn't know about
those things here in the States. So, one day she came in to me and she said,
"You know, Sue" she said uh, "I'm really thinking about resigning, retiring from
coaching athletes to go into treating horses, treating, treating the equine
community. And I tried my best to talk her out of that for three or four days.
And finally I said, "Okay".
FEAMSTER: "This is where you're supposed to be. Go ahead." And she's made a
superb career out of that--
STILL: --Yeah, and she's, she's--
FEAMSTER: --she's one of the premier trainers in the country, in the world.
STILL: It's, it's amazing. She left after the SEC championship actually--
STILL: --we just saw, we just had our reunion um in 2020 and she got her
championship ring. But right after that, that's how driven she was to
00:48:00move on to. I always tell her we were her guinea pigs.
STILL: She went from female athletes to horses. It's like, okay Mimi.
FEAMSTER: Right, right.
STILL: But with that said, so '76 also the Olympics happened for women. It's the
first time that women's basketball is in the Olympics. The USA qualifies for the
Olympics and it wins a silver medal. Uh there's this big tryout. I think we may
have talked about this in an earlier session. There's the tryouts across the
country. They're inviting people. And you're sent, you sent a few of your
players, including Nareen White. Um and I want you to talk to us a little bit
about this 1976 Olympics. Billie Moore, the legendary coach, was coaching the
team at the time. Pat Head Summitt was a player, coach, kind of, she played.
STILL: Lucia Harris, Ann Meyers, Nancy Niber--no, Nancy Lieberman was a young
high school kid that was on the team. Um talk to us a little about
00:49:00this Olympic tryouts. How did it change women's basketball? And was this a
change, a turning point for women's basketball?
FEAMSTER: Well, I'll, I'll tell you about that, you've got about five or six
questions in there--
STILL: --yeah, it's just your overall--(laughs)--
FEAMSTER: And I'll tell you about uh Nancy Lieberman nearly coming to UK.
FEAMSTER: You may not know about that.
STILL: No, I don't, I haven't heard anything.
FEAMSTER: Um, well, we heard about these tryouts and they were down in Tennessee
someplace, and um I thought we had some pretty good girls. I, excuse me, young
women playing on our teams, uh Nareen, Timperman, uh Pam Browning, et cetera, et cetera.
STILL: Ceal Barry.
FEAMSTER: Uh huh, Ceal. And I thought, even if they didn't make it
00:50:00it'd be great exposure for them to go down and go through the tryouts. So uh one
of my players, uh Kassie Kessinger, her, her dad had a big, at that time, they
were called uh, uh those travel vans and it could hold a whole lot of people.
And she said, you know, she said, "My dad will lend us that travel, we can all
go together" and I thought, well, that's great, so I'm driving this--
FEAMSTER: --this uh, what do I want to call it? And I'm trying to, I can see the
STILL: Like a RV? It wasn't an RV, was it?
FEAMSTER: Yeah, it was a big RV. And we're driving and we've got all the kids
are going to tryouts in there, all driving down the roads to Tennessee and I'm
driving this thing. And you have to remember, we didn't have bus
00:51:00drivers. We didn't have busses. So if, if we had gone in station wagons, we'd
probably needed three station wagons to carry everybody. And then the, the
students would have the, the players would have been driving. And I, by that
time, I was getting a little nervous about players having, and managers having
to drive the other vehicles, you know, when we traveled. So we go down in this
RV in and uh go down to the tryouts and uh, gosh Lucia Harris. Oh, my gosh. I
tried my best to recruit that girl and Billie, Billie Moore was at, at UCLA--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --and she was, she was the coach and, and of course, Pat was there and
I really thought, I really thought that Timperman and Pam Browning
00:52:00should have been selected for that team.
FEAMSTER: They were that good.
STILL: Uh huh?
FEAMSTER: And, of course, the very next year they were, they were drafted and
the first they were the first pro players--
STILL: --WBL, uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --that were drafted to play. But in terms of, did that start
something? In terms of women's basketball, absolutely, it was the turning point,
it's the first time women's basketball had been showcased uh, and uh, it really
started a momentum particularly for, for Pat Summitt. Um, because she was the
assistant player coach there and would eventually become the coach. And so a lot
of the publicity that, that Pat got and Tennessee got in the just the fact that
we won the silver medal the first time in was um really exciting and
00:53:00spread all over the country, so it was a real stimulus for not just women's
basketball, but women's athletics in, in general.
STILL: So listen, at '76, '77 season starts in August, and it must have been a
little change for you no longer coaching. I don't know if it was a relief
because then all you had to do was focus in on the administrative part to it.
STILL: But then I think your passion was coaching. You love sports that much,
but that '76, '77 team um season, the team finishes nineteen and seven, so they
have a great, you know, season. So your pick with Debbie Yow was right on, the
scholarship's initiate, initiated. So you guys are giving out scholarships, and
UK is nationally ranked for the first time reaching this high ranking of
seventeen. But at the same time, 1976 is the first time that they
00:54:00have a women's basketball poll. Mel Greenberg out of the Philadelphia Inquirer
starts that AP Polls um, and there were rankings from one to twenty and then in
1989 and '90 it went to, it changed to the top twenty-five, which they do now.
STILL: But that was the first year for that as well. And UK is in that ranking.
Um Pam Browning, our center, is the first UK women's basketball player to be
named all-American Street and Smith. So that '76, '77 season I would say was a
success for you. What would you say about the season in particular? What did you
remember about that season as far as playing and the coaching? And what do you
remember about that season as far as administrative, you know, what you were
doing behind the scenes?
FEAMSTER: Well, first of all, hats off to Mel Greenberg. He was an early, early--
FEAMSTER: --the first real real supporter of women's athletics and
00:55:00particularly women's basketball. I mean, he thought. I mean, he was the poster
boy for women should be playing everything and should be getting, getting press
FEAMSTER: Uh, and I felt, I, I had had an idea that I was probably going to
retire from coaching. Um, because if you remember, I'd had a neck injury from a
car wreck, and the doctor told me that I probably won't be able to coach much
longer. So that was in the back of my mind and I thought, I don't want to, I
don't want to leave somebody with just a no nothing team, I want to leave
somebody that's coming in here with a good team that can start off and be
successful. And I felt like the timing of when I left, there was a good team
there in place. So I was very pleased that we went up in the rankings
00:56:00that year. And then Pam was selected for the post all-American, the Street and
Smith. But I felt like we should have done better and I felt like that was
partially due to um Debbie's first year as a head coach in at the college level,
but overall, I was really pleased with the success of the team. And I realized
at that time how much sleep I had been losing, trying to run the other sports.
And the other things, because it was growing exponentially. And um, um I tried
to help basketball out as much as possible um in terms of helping them get the
budget they needed, uh seeing if they got to play in the Coliseum as
00:57:00many times as they could, getting to practice there early. Because the men at
that time were still practicing in the Coliseum, except I think the day before a
game they got to play in Rupp Arena. So, you know, we had to coordinate all
those schedules and um I was really focused on their success. What success could
look like for them and um so that was really my focus, and helping Debbie as
much as I could. And um, although sometimes she didn't need help and I probably
overstepped my bounds a little bit, but um I was pretty well satisfied. Did I
miss it? I absolutely missed working with the, with the students. I, I loved
working with the young women--
STILL: --now what about your offices and playing, you all were still playing at
the Seaton Center, then? Your home game?
FEAMSTER: Yeah, we did play a lot at the Seaton Center.
STILL: And your offices were there as well.
FEAMSTER: Our offices were there at the Seaton Center. And of course, at this
time we were two years into our women's athletics. And we were struggling for,
we needed more money. Dr. Singletary was having difficulty in uh getting money
from the state legislature to support women's athletics only, not men's. And so
about this time is when we began to talk about uh if that doesn't happen, we'd
be merging with men's athletics. So all this first year, that um full time and
athletics administration and Debbie's full time and in basketball ,
00:59:00we're also making some changes and some of the other sports and we're getting
ready to bring on a second full time coach in another sport. All this is
underneath everything is what we're going to do for money going forward. So we
were really looking into uh merging with men's athletics. None of which--
STILL: --so right, right after the season, in 1977--
STILL: --you also start the booster club for U.K. Women's Athletics as well. And I--
STILL: --guess that's part of the reason why you started the booster club as well?
FEAMSTER: It is. It is and um, of course, the booster clubs originally were
great for men, and they really were wonderful for the girls because they were
each paired up with someone and um they'd have a place to go on a weekend, they
could go over to the booster's house and uh watch a little TV and be with a
family. They had some, some moral support while in school. And so it
01:00:00was, it was a big time, and we had a great success with our booster club. Yeah,
we really did.
STILL: Ninth is 1977, '78 team season, you all win the state tournament for the
first time, the KWIC, you all win it, um, and that's under the AIAW at the time.
STILL: We're still under the AIAW um and um that '78 first radio game broadcast,
I don't know if you remember this. Postseason for the KWIC tournament, regional
playoffs, they did as well, uh and the NWIT um, your first televised WKYT game
was broadcast. This is a huge, huge year for as far as advertising and
promotions, first televised--
STILL: --um, TV show, the, this was new to me, the Coach Debbie Yow
01:01:00Show was hosted by Rob Brown, or Rob Bromley.
STILL: Um, all of this happened um, the second year that Debbie Yow was in and
you're totally focused as athletic director. Talk a little bit about, and, and,
Maria Donhoff is named NWIT All-American.
STILL: So um, talk a little bit about that. That year, the 1977, '78 team, was
STILL: --was your focus in on marketing and promotions with all this media?
FEAMSTER: Well it--(clears throat)--a great deal of my focus was on that. Um,
the men were being broadcast and the uh, the way the radio and television
contracts worked at that time, um it was handled by a guy named Bernie
Vanderheid over in public relations at UK. And I had tried my best to
01:02:00have them, when they were bidding for men's and women, when they were bidding
for the men's radio and TV rights, to put women in there. Why can't you
broadcast women? Why can't you broadcast uh women's TV games? Why can't you
broadcast the radio games? Why can't you do those things? Why can't we have, you
know, a coach's show? The reason my thinking on this, and I still believe this,
Valerie, I still think we missed the boat on this, all these years later,
forty-six years later after Title IX. The airways in this country are controlled
by the government.
FEAMSTER: The federal airways, they were built by the government, et cetera, et
cetera. So when you, when you broadcast on a radio station, you're
01:03:00traveling through a government airways. And it was my contention, because of the
language in Title IX, that you needed, that people that ran newspapers and
television stations and radio stations would automatically have to extend those
same obligations to women. I still believe that to this day. Of course, things
have changed a great deal, but we were the first television show that any female
coach had in this country.
FEAMSTER: We were the first radio broadcast, we were the first television
broadcast. And we were broadcast, you might know the date, it was in um, it's
the game we, we played against uh the national championships, Old Dominion.
STILL: When we broke the attendance record?
FEAMSTER: We broke a few attendance records then.
FEAMSTER: ten-thousand six-hundred and twenty-two, I believe--
STILL: --in February 1983, yeah.
FEAMSTER: Right. And um, uh--
STILL: --we broke the record for national, for the year as well. That year--
FEAMSTER: --yes, we did.
FEAMSTER: But we, um, the idea about people seeing it, is that they would come
to like it and they would start coming games. They would get excited about it,
they'd see it, and say, "Well these, these girls can really play", and they play
the style of basketball that men used to play. They passed, they ran. They were,
you know, our focus was on pass, passing and shooting, and um my idea was, was
trying to build an audience for women's basketball. That's what my whole focus
was on. How did I do that, because with that came revenue.
FEAMSTER: And once you had revenue, you had power.
STILL: Yeah, that's, that's, that's it. Now part of, with you talking about
power now, because things kind of change in '78 as well. As far as you're, I
don't know if it was just terminology or if there was a shift in power as well,
but that's when the merger between women's and men's athletic, athletics take
place and you're named assistant director of athletics, women's sports instead
of being the women's director, athletic director. And the women's program moves
to Memorial Coliseum's offices, practices, everything. What was that merger?
What did that mean to the program?
FEAMSTER: Well, the number one thing it meant is that we were going to have
funding. The legislator, legislature, the Kentucky legislature, had
01:06:00turned down Dr. Singletary's second request in the biennial budget to fund UK
women's athletics. Remember, they're funding all the other state school's
athletics programs, at the time, except University Kentucky--
FEAMSTER: --he didn't want money for men's athletics. He wanted it for women's
athletics. And we got turned down. So the only place for us to go to get the
funding that we needed was to merge with men's athletics and to be under that
umbrella of funding. And so um, it was earlier than we had planned, we had hoped
to go eight years without that. Um, the, my position didn't change in terms of,
I was still over women's athletics. Um, But in addition to doing
01:07:00that, I was over all the men's sports except football and basketball.
FEAMSTER: So I had this--
FEAMSTER: --uh more expansive uh responsibility and oh, also, they threw in to
me all the travel. They wanted to get rid of handling all the vans and so forth
that athletics had, and so I guess they thought women's athletics and men's
minor sports weren't too much. Let's just add something else.
STILL: I'll give you some more, something to do with, Sue--
STILL: --so how much were you, what was your salary at that time?
FEAMSTER: [Oh gosh,] well, my salary went up, because I was paid the same as the
other assistant directors.
STILL: Oh, wow.
FEAMSTER: I wasn't paid the same as the athletic director--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --which I thought I should have been--
STILL: --(laughs)-- of course
FEAMSTER: But since I was the athletic director. You have to remember, back
then, UK had, in athletics, I want you to remember these numbers: we had one A.D.,--
FEAMSTER: --and three assistant A.D.s--
FEAMSTER: Larry Ivy, Frank Ham, and myself. And, and, of course, our A.D.
STILL: When did Bob Bradley get on the scene? Wasn't?
FEAMSTER: Well, Bob was coming right after that.
FEAMSTER: Bob, Bob was coming right after I moved over there. Um, what a great
addition. And he became assistant A.D. for academics, where he was director of,
whatever, that's what he was.
STILL: Right, he was in [charge]--
FEAMSTER: --uh became assistant A.D., but anyway. And we had seventy employees,
total. Seventy. Today, and I believe these are fairly accurate numbers, there
are, four executive A.D.s, an A.D., four like higher paying executive people,
maybe five, three-hundred and seventy-five full time employees.
STILL: Oh, Lord, yeah.
FEAMSTER: Now uh, in women's basketball, they have more full time employees than
I had in students.
FEAMSTER: In women's basketball now, they, they have more employees.
01:10:00Then all of men's athletic, all of women's athletics and the men's minor sports
that I employed. That I was, that I was supervising. Um, the Women's Athletics
at UK, when we merged, we were the only people, the women were the only people
who had full time coaches. Men's minor sports did not have full time coaches. So
the baseball coach, and the track and field coach, and the rifle coach and, they
all did other things.
FEAMSTER: [Some] of them worked in athletics and did something for athletics,
and on the side coached. So the first thing I did was put together a, because we
had this woman already, we, we had uh projected when we were bringing
01:11:00full time coaches on, I started projecting that for all my men's coaches, all my
men's sports. So the merging of men's and women's athletics brought a number of
changes. In addition to changes in women's athletics and funding, it also
changed men's athletics. We, we started on a, um, full time employee basis for
all the men's sports. And so um, Title IX is this, is an example of putting, of
Title IX elevating men's minor sports to have full time coaches and trainers,
and access to facilities, and travel, and all the things that they didn't have
under men's sports. It changed athletics dramatically, not just at UK, but
around the country.
STILL: --wow. Wow. Now, I want to, I know Debbie Yow was talking with
01:12:00her um with the salaries and all, you know, each year there's a bump in salaries--
STILL: --and hers went from nine to eleven. And then by '78, though it goes, she
gets an increase of eighteen thousand and,--
STILL: --and she kind of attributes that to one, the UKAA, so the un, uni,
University of Kentucky--
STILL: --Athletic Association--
STILL: --but also your secret weapon and we talked about her a little bit in the
last sess--secs--session, was Gloria Singletary's influence on this program,
which was fundamental because she was so involved in the program, and she had a
direct connection to someone that could make changes. Talk to us again about
Gloria Singletary and how her influence um really made U.K. women's basketball,
it put it at that level.
FEAMSTER: Well--(clears throat)--I'll put it this way. If it were not
01:13:00for Gloria Singletary, I think women's athletics would have been ten years behind--
FEAMSTER: --starting programs. I think she was the critical element, and her support,--
FEAMSTER: --her access to the president every night, which she and I used to
call it, pillow talk. And um she was um vocal. She was present, as you know, she
toured with us. She went to championships--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --she, if I needed something and I really thought I ought to have it,
I picked up the telephone and talked to her about it, and we figured out how we
could get it. And it's uncalculable what she meant for women's
01:14:00basketball. And she also was very supportive of all the sports that I controlled--
STILL: --oh wow--
FEAMSTER: --and so minor sports. She was, she thought, they all should have
equal access to everything, to money, to coaches, to travel. She was my single
source of boosting. Um, she kept me singularly at UK for a long time.
STILL: I remember her sitting with the rowdy bunch, it was a group of, of guys--
STILL: --and they would dress, that's, that's when you know, the ones that paint
their face and all that.
FEAMSTER: Oh, yeah.
STILL: And she would sit with the rowdy bunch and it was just so funny to see
her mixed in with these guys and she would really be into the games.
01:15:00Like you're saying, she was such a support and fundraising and all that for. And
I know I got to, I think she had an award out too, I got her award a few times.
I don't know if it was leadership or whatever--
STILL: --but definitely she made a difference in our program.
FEAMSTER: She did, she really did. And Dr. Singletary--
FEAMSTER: --I will say this about Dr. Singletary. He never wavered from the
first moment, from the time he got the first report from the Women's Athletics
Committee. He tried every way to fully fund women's athletics. People don't
realize until you get in administration, the lot of other things happening in
the state at this time. And, and let me tell you some of the things that were
happening to, to let you understand what was happening at Kentucky.
01:16:00UK, during this time, this particular time, UK was, would get fifty percent of
the higher education dollar in, in the state, we got 50 percent of it. During
this critical time period, and I know, I'm not certain of the dates, but it was
this was right smack dab in the middle of it. UK went from getting fifty percent
of the higher education dollars to twenty-five percent of higher education
dollars. So their overall funding was cut in half from the state. And what was
happening during this time period is number one, the University of Louisville
went from a private school to a state public institution. So, they
01:17:00had to get dollars. The community college system was started during this time
period. They had to get funded from higher education dollars in the state. And
Kentucky is a poor state compared to our surrounding states and we're not very
big in terms of population, but compared to Ohio and Tennessee and um Illinois,
some of the states that surround us, we don't have a huge population, we don't
have a lot of businesses, so the higher, so the taxes in Kentucky. Um, and how
they divvy up things that the state. So the community college system was coming
on the University of Louisville. And then you have a two year school in Northern
Kentucky University becoming a four year school. Where did that money
01:18:00come from? That money came from the University of Kentucky's budget that went
from fifty percent of what it was getting to twenty-five percent. And that's
when you see at the university an emphasis on fundraising an emphasis on private
support, et cetera, et cetera, accelerating. So Dr. Singletary is having to deal
with all these cuts, really a substantial cut. In the public funds that we got
from the state and how did he balance that? Because he then had to run. And
remember, we've got a medical center to run, we have uh faculty to pay, you
know, tuition went up. I mean, all sources of revenue at the University of
Kentucky were looked at and um built to produce more. And so, the
01:19:00merger of women's athletics into men's athletics came at this time and uh Gloria
Singletary kept the eye on the ball. She saw that we got, and athletics got,
what it deserved.
STILL: Yeah. And she, I mean, like I was reading up on Frances McVey, she was
Frank McVey's um husband back--
STILL: --and he [was] president back in the 1920s.
STILL: How conflicted they were in some of their concepts. They wanted to
protect women, but they wanted women to be empowered. And, but Gloria Singletary
was always about it, it seemed like, she just wanted what was best. And she
didn't have those kind of prejudices or--
STILL: --you know, way of looking at like, well, you know, women
01:20:00shouldn't be you know, women are weaker, so we need to treat them a certain way.
She was always about equality, like gender equality and equity--
FEAMSTER: --absolutely, no question--
STILL: --and it's amazing and, and what that does because of her. It really
propels this program, all the pieces together, these strong women that are just,
you know, propelling this--
STILL: --until you get to--
FEAMSTER: --if you, yeah, if you look back at Gloria's early life. Dr.
Singletary was in World War II. He was, he was in the Navy. Gloria Singletary
signed up to be a WAVE.
STILL: Wow. Oh that's, that's, I didn't know that --
FEAMSTER: --Gloria, Gloria Singletary was a WAVE and um, so her, her mindset,
from the way she was raised, where she came from, you know there,
01:21:00Mississippi, was equality. And I could tell you a hundred stories of how she
personified that. But most of all, she did it with grace and that wonderful
smile she had--
FEAMSTER: --and she couldn't be turned down--
FEAMSTER: --let me tell you something. It was hard to turn her down and she used
that not only to help Dr. Singletary, but I've seen her use it with the
governors, I've seen her use it with legislators--
FEAMSTER: --I've seen her use it with benefactors. She was a force to be
reckoned with and very underrated as to the tests of the university and
particularly women's basketball and women's athletic, and men's minor sports. I
mean, she had no boundaries .
STILL: Wow. Well, I remember coming on campus for a visit the summer of '79.
Well, I had, I had been on campus a few times before that to visit my brother
while he was playing and fell in love with Kentucky. And I thought that the
program, the '77, '78, '79 season was not that good for UK. Actually, I think
they, what was it, thirteen and sixteen or sixteen and thirteen one way--
STILL: --or the other. Um but, you know, I was already smitten, already knew
where I was going to go. And it's like there are certain times that things all
come together and--
STILL: --you have magic and that, I think that's what happened in the 1979, '80
season. Coach Yow ends up recruiting the best class, you could argue, in UK's
women basketball history, and I'm not saying that just because I was a part of
it. But when you look at Patty Jo Hedges and Lea Wise--
STILL: -- and Lori Edington and Sharon Garland, these were the top players out
of Kentucky. I think Lea Wise uh was being recruited by Tennessee. And we all
come to Kentucky all at the same time, we all have the same type of mentality.
And that's the same type of mentality that you and Debbie how, Yow had, which
was so competitive.
STILL: And we come in and of course, we finished that season with a twenty four
and five record. This is coming off of UK losing the KWIC to Morehead the year
before. And we upset the second rank um, Tennessee, '66 to '64, Memorial Coliseum--
STILL: --and, and SEC is now recognizing championships for women basketball as
well, and tennis and volleyball and basketball--
STILL: --so that whole season, what can you, what did you think about that, that
group that came in? And did you have any influence on that? What was
01:24:00Debbie Yow talking to you about when she was recruiting that group?
FEAMSTER: Well, since we're all retired, I guess I can talk about this now.
FEAMSTER: Um, actually, the, the one thing that women were afraid of, back in
not wanting women's athletics to get too big and women's competitions, is that
we'd become too much like the men.
STILL: Mmm. Mhmm.
FEAMSTER: And recruiting became really fierce. Jobs were given at other schools
to people's fathers, um, payments were being given out. And, you know,
uh, everybody knows what everybody else is doing. There, there
01:25:00weren't any secrets. And um, Joe Hall and I talked about this a lot. And I
talked, at that time, I think I was on the, we were in the early formation of
women's SEC. And so we talked about this a lot um, what people were doing. And I
made a flat out rule, as did Cliff, across the board, that we were not going to
cheat, we were not going to offer inducements, we were not going to find people
jobs, we were not going to do it. And that hurt us, I will tell you. That hurt
us, they were, there were competitive school, sister schools. That
01:26:00were involved in um, um, I guess you would call it against the rule types of
recruitment. We all knew it, we all knew who did it, but UK didn't do it. And
um, throughout my tenure at UK, I stood for that. And uh believe me, I've had
coaches in my office crying that we're going to lose so-and-so, if we can't, if
we can't do this, because this is what they're being offered.
FEAMSTER: And, you know, um, you have to decide in life what you stand for. And
I'm very fortunate that, again, I was brought up with the Golden Rule, treat
people the way you want to be treated. And um, that was just my rule, and that
was Clift's rule, and as long as we were there, to my knowledge, none
01:27:00of that ever took place and um, for good reason. And yes, did we lose a lot of
people? We did. We, we lost some. I think UK's stronger for it. But that
particular year really vaulted us into the, you know, our crowds were getting
bigger, and you've probably got the crowd numbers there, we--
FEAMSTER: --that group of people and yes, you were included in that, but that
group of people had magic. They were magic together, you all were magic together
when you played and, and um they were very, very special and um, we were fast,
we could shoot--
FEAMSTER: --you were on the inside. Um, Lea Wise looked like Farrah Fawcett--
FEAMSTER: --you know, a lot of people will come to see her--
STILL: --uh huh, yeah--
FEAMSTER: --they came to see UK play because--
FEAMSTER: --Farrah Fawcett was playing on the floor and Patty Jo Hedges was
remarkable. And all the other surrounding players were equally remarkable. And,
of course, you, the most remarkable. It was just a special year and a special
four years to have them. And um, we accomplished so much for the visibility of
the program. For the ability of people for, for young girls in high school to
see girls play like you all played was, was really astonishing. And of course,
we had a lot of schools come in at that time--
STILL: --I remember that, lots of (??) coming in--
FEAMSTER: --and we would have busloads of--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --students play. And you remember the Lady Kat. We had her
01:29:00little skirt, and her and so forth. And um I've got some great photos of her uh
talking about donating some of those to the, I'm thinking--
STILL: --oh, yeah--
FEAMSTER: --things that I have--
STILL: --Sue, what about the, the Lady Kat camps? Because I know I--the year,
the summer before I came to the UK, we were counselors or we participated in that.
STILL: When did those start?
FEAMSTER: Well, I started the basketball camps, but way back uh, Laura Schwager
worked the first one.
FEAMSTER: Laura Schwager and Ceal--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: --Barry worked in the first one and that was, what, way back in uh
'75, '74, probably the summer of 1974 once we were varsity that year,
01:30:00is when I started camps. We only had one week of camp and we had it at the
Seaton Building. And um, we had maybe eighty girls from across the state come.
And it was really exciting and um, so camps have been going on. And of course,
when Deborah came, we expanded them to two weeks. And then maybe, maybe even a
month, I think they went up, we had--
FEAMSTER: --we had lots of camps, because they're a revenue producer.
FEAMSTER: And uh, part of that money came in to support all of the program. And
um, the coaches got paid a little bit, a small stipend, but that helped us, one.
It's, it's like you said, and it's a proven truth, if you can get a high school
student on your campus for any reason, a summer program, a uh, part
01:31:00of visiting scholars, the, the governor scholars program, an athletic camp, et
cetera, and get them sort of integrated to the campus. They more than likely,
ninety five percent of the time, they'll select your school to come to. So while
many um, faculty and professors think that these things are extramural, they're
really contribute to the growth of the university. And um, music campus,
governor scholars camps, technology camps, basketball camps, all of that
contributes to the growth of the university. And, because kids will select
something they're familiar with.
FEAMSTER: And also, if they don't like it, they'll select out, too.
01:32:00But, but most, I mean that's, it's been proven by a number of studies, if you
get, if you can get a high school student on your camp, on your school campus
during the summer, they're more likely to choose your school to go to school.
FEAMSTER: They're a great recruiting tool.
STILL: Now, the other thing that was going on and, and, this whole series, I
want to address somewhat the socially constructed concepts, the systems of
oppression that keep women in a certain place, you know, that kind of squashed
their voice. And part of that with women's basketball is the whole uh sexual
orientation, whether it's a myth or whether it's implicit biases or. And that
was used in recruiting as well, because um the thought was that if your child,
if your girl participated in sports, there was a, a large population of
gay lesbian women, whether coaches, players, whatever, and that it
01:33:00would impact your daughter. Um and there were, there was in actuality, there was
a large percentage of, I find this to be true, of gay or lesbian women in
women's basketball. And it only has been until recently that it's been accepted.
Like, no longer you have to hide that. When you were saying part of our appeal
to the public was that, yeah, we could flat out play. We were hard-nosed and
rough and whatever, but at the same time, it was always that heterosexual kind
of appeal that, you know, Lea Wise looking like Farrah Fawcett. I remember me
doing interviews where, you know, my mom always wanted me to be ladylike and,
you know, all these different kind of things that we had to deal with as female
athletes. Um, what do you think about that whole concept of, and, and
01:34:00has, of course, it's changed, but dealing with that in the nineteen, late 70s,
the 80s, um, how did that impact um recruiting and how, how you functioned in
women's sports? And is it true? I mean, do you think there was this oppression,
this whole system, and again, I'm talking about, I say socially constructed concepts--
STILL: --I'm using race, um, class, sexuality, gender is all sexually, I mean,
not sexually, socially constructed to keep people in certain places to oppress
them. And so um what do you, what's your thoughts on that?
FEAMSTER: Well, that's a, um, what I would say, Valerie. That's a more modern
concept of today, and trying to put that back on what was going on in
01:35:00the 70s and 80s um, I'm not sure we could qualify that as some kind of social
construct. What I would say about it is, to my knowledge, I was there, you know,
fifteen years in athletics, I don't believe we ever, I don't believe I ever
heard, and I'm, I'm trying to think back, I don't believe I ever heard any type
of reason, along those lines of gender bias, they were lesbian, uh
01:36:00they were gay, men or women. As to the reason why we didn't recruit them, we
didn't play them, uh didn't treat them equally. This may have been an undertone
that I wasn't aware of, but, but that's my remembrance of that. Now, I will say
this, it's quite evident and of course, now we know many examples of fantastic,
outstanding players who are gay, both and especially in women's pro basketball,
pro uh soccer, uh people on our Olympic team, et cetera, that come
01:37:00out and can make their way in the world and aren't penalized in many ways than
they would have been back in the 70s and 80s. Um, so I would say that probably
there were undertones of this. I can definitely tell you in our audience makeup,
I know that there were uh huge uh support, huge support from the gay community--
STILL: --mhmm. Always has been in women's basketball, I think.
FEAMSTER: --always has been. And um, I think, [especially in women's basketball]
I can tell you of many, many times I was up through the audience and an obvious
gay couple would stop me and say the girls are doing great tonight,
01:38:00we really want to support, we're going to join the booster club. You know, we
want to thank you for what you're doing. But, you know, there is in, in every
sport, there is an element of some social construct that follows you--
FEAMSTER: --whether it's a gay construct, a lesbian construct, um--
STILL: --or race or class, any--
FEAMSTER: --or race--
STILL: --gender, gender, genders all socially constructed--
STILL: --what's feminine, what's masculine? It's--
FEAMSTER: --exactly. And um, but what I would say is, and, and what I've already
said is, I wasn't aware [that there may have been undertones of that] through
the teams themselves. I wasn't aware of that in the 70s and 80s. Um,
01:39:00we didn't talk about it at the state or SEC level or the national level, it
wasn't talked about, so I'm not, I don't know if it was ignored. I don't know if
it wasn't brought up. I don't know if it hadn't got enough uh propulsion to
bring it up, or if it just wasn't talked about. But I would say during those
years, while it may have been going on around the rest of the country. Um, we're
the little ol' south, if you think about us. And I'm not sure, you know, we're
not New York, we're not West Coast, uh we're not in some of the huge liberal cities--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: -- we're, we're very socially conservative south at the time. Um race
certainly was an issue. Wasn't an issue for us, wasn't an issue for
01:40:00me, wasn't an issue for our team.
FEAMSTER: Um, but, it was certainly issue, particularly for men's teams. I don't
think the women's teams really had that, that difficulty that the men's did
because they had to break that barrier of being integrated first, and in the
south, that was a major issue. (??)--
STILL: But I'm thinking, with you saying that, I'm thinking maybe for the women
it was more like sexuality or sexual orientation because--
STILL: -- there it was. People didn't feel like they could be themselves--
STILL: --in that sense and be accepted.
STILL: I think there were a lot of women um that hid that. Even when I'm reading
these books, there's a book called Our Rightful Place about, you know, these
strong women how, Kentucky, UK got integrated with women. And you, you,
you read their stories and you kind of read them between the lines in
01:41:00the sense that, you know, women were given the option of either, really you were
supposed to get married, you didn't need, who was getting a college education
when you're going to get married--
FEAMSTER: --uh huh--
STILL: --and all. But the women that did step up and didn't get married, you
know, were strong, assertive. They were always looked down upon like that wasn't
uh like, like that was a negative.
FEAMSTER: --well, Sarah Blanding is a good example.
STILL: Yeah. Exactly--
FEAMSTER: --and, you know, she--
STILL: --never got married, never, you know.
FEAMSTER: And what I would say to you about Sarah Blanding and the Sarah
Blandings of the United States. She grew up on a farm. Um, people that grew up
on a farm have so many responsibilities at an early age because they have chores
to do at a farm and responsibilities to fulfill. And as she got to,
01:42:00as she got become more and more advanced in her education and realized that she
had a career beyond UK. Uh and of course, she's. I mean, her story is remarkable.
STILL: It is.
FEAMSTER: And uh, and rightfully so. I know people that knew Sarah and I've
heard them talk about her in my early years at UK. Uh, you know, she was
revered. And to have the whole Blanding Tower complex named for her is an
example of that. One of the few places, if not the only place on Kentucky's
campus that's named for a woman.
STILL: --Holmes Hall, I think too. Yeah Holmes Hall--
FEAMSTER: --yeah, Holmes Hall is named for Sarah Holmes, yes--
STILL: --but, and Sue, just to, and the, the, and she is, she's the
01:43:00founding of UK's basketball, and for the players today, not to know who she is,
who she is, in the sense that she was stepping up. You know, giving us a voice
so that we could, she was taking a hit--
STILL: --it's amazing that, that, that story isn't well known.
FEAMSTER: Well, I have always thought, and I still believe, you know, uh, every
uh beginning of the school in August, you know, the, the athletes have to come
through. We have to go through a, a new rule change. You have to just, you have
to sign your eligibility pieces, and so forth and so forth. I've always thought
that there should be an orientation of UK's roots. Where did we come
01:44:00from? How many people know where we got the color for UK, the blue? It's the
blue from Dick Stoll's tie.
FEAMSTER: It's the blue from Dick Stoll's tie. Where did the, where did Lady
Kats come from?
FEAMSTER: How soon did women, when did men's athletics start? And what was going
on in the rest of the country? And how quickly did we pick it up at UK? And all
these stories, that when you're a scholarship athlete at UK or Tennessee or the
University of Detroit or Michigan, you should know the footsteps that you're
FEAMSTER: I mean, I firmly believe that. And I think there ought to be an
orientation every year about who you follow. You didn't get there by yourself.
FEAMSTER: I didn't get where I was by myself, someone was before me. They do a
great job of doing this, I think, particularly when they televise men's
basketball uh and men's football. And I'll use Notre Dame as an example. They'll
show historic photographs about, you know, the history of Notre Dame and the
four horsemen and all this other stuff--
STILL: --uh huh--
FEAMSTER: Every school needs their story told, and every year when you come in
to sign your name that you agree with, you know, you're going to comply with the
rules, et cetera. In your orientation, you should know the magnificent program
you're stepping into, particularly at UK. But who fought for you to
01:46:00have a football program, who fought for you to have women's basketball, who came
before you, you know, who are your forefathers and your foremothers? Is, it's no
different than the history of our country. And I think we, I think the very fact
of what's going on in Congress right now today, as we talk about it. And to
understand, what did we mean when we wrote the Constitution, what did we mean? I
mean, that is the prime example. The invasion of our house that took place on
February or January sixth. When people say there's no laws for it, but I will
say this, if, if any of us had done that in our workplace. We would have been
fired immediately. We'd been put on probation, we would have been
01:47:00dealt with. And for, and I don't mean to get political here, but for our
Congress to not hold accountable those that caused this insurgence is the fact
that they don't understand history. They don't know where they came from. They
don't know our Constitution. They don't know what it stands for and what we
stand for in the world. And I feel the same way about um, the history of
athletics. They should know at UK, every year, they should watch a little
reminder film, this is where we came from. This is what we're striving to be.
STILL: Yeah, and that's why this oral history, I keep coming back to it. It's so
important because it does carry on not only the legacy, but the
01:48:00future. Because if you respect the history of what a Sue Feamster laid out there
and was able and brave enough to do, then that gives you the courage to, to
move, you know, pay it forward. So um, with that said, let's go to, we didn't, I
didn't know we were going to go that direction, but it all ties together--
STILL: --I know, but at the moment--
FEAMSTER: --(??) we're over our time limit together, we got to set up another time.
STILL: --I know, Sue, so let's do this. I want to finish with the Debbie Yow
era, which is the seven--
FEAMSTER: --oh, okay--
STILL: -- she's there for one year that I'm there. So we're right there. And
then I was going to go on to Terry Hall, but we'll, we'll go in the next
session, session, session.
FEAMSTER: --(??) we'll start at Terry Hall next session.
STILL: Right. But let's talk about, and it's perfect here, because we're talking
about the conflict between a career and marriage. And, you know, having a woman
that has her career, has her mind set for something. And then we still are
conflicted, like maybe something's missing. And I think, and Debbie
01:49:00Yow is going to be, we're going to have a session with her as well. But here she
is. She's at the pinnacle, this incredible program you all are leading this into
like a national championship. You know, you've got the players, you've got the
support. She's right there. She, you know, loses five games, the '79, '80 team.
And all of a sudden, it was a shock for all of us. How did that come about that
she decided that she was going to resign? And was she talking to you throughout
the year? Or did it just come as a complete surprise?
FEAMSTER: Well, if you were shocked, you can imagine our shock.
STILL: So you were. She wasn't--
FEAMSTER: --we had no idea. Uh, she came to see me that morning, turned in her
resignation, and walked down the hall.
STILL: No way! That, that morning you found out? What day was that, do you
remember? It was.
FEAMSTER: I guess it was a Monday. You can ask her, she probably remembers exactly--
FEAMSTER: --but I remember saying to her, "Are you certain about this?" I said,
"You're, you're leaving a lot here. You're leaving a lot that will take you to
greater things, are you certain?" And she said, "I am certain." and got up and
left. Tears in her eyes. And I followed her down the hall, I went to Cliff's
office, bypassed his secretary, walked straight in to see him and said,
"Debbie has just resigned." And we both sat there and looked at each
01:51:00other. It was in August, I believe. And we sat there in kind of stunned silence
for a few minutes and said, "I guess we better start looking for a replacement."
and I handed him the resignation.
FEAMSTER: Because --(laughs)-- school was starting and um, we had to get a coach
there before the season started.
STILL: You had just hired a new assistant coach, I think as well--
STILL: --Dottie Berry had to come in.
FEAMSTER: Dottie Berry had just been hired. And uh, so, I went back to my office and--
FEAMSTER: --wrote a, wrote a national uh, I called Miss Singletary, told her.
And uh, uh I wrote out a national advertisement, sent it over to HR to get it
published. And um, you know, that whole thing kind of, athletics didn't have all
the same rules as the institution, but for hiring purposes and things like that,
we had to go through the, the correct advertisement of jobs and um, that's what
we did. And we went about, and I went back to Debbie's office and I said,
"Listen, well, I guess we need to have a meeting with the team." And she said,
"I'm having that meeting...," I don't know, "that afternoon". You'll remember
when that happened, I don't remember. STILL: I mean, I thought that was planned
out and we were just left in the dark for so long, but it hadn't been.
FEAMSTER: No. Well, I think, you know, she'd probably been planning it, or maybe
reached the decision over the weekend, I don't know. But, and that's something
you probably should talk to her about, because--
STILL: --I, I will--
FEAMSTER: --because she was, you know, she was seeing Lynn, and he was leaving.
FEAMSTER: She's going with him.
STILL: And when you say Lynn, that's Lynn Nance, he was the assistant coach for
the men's team at the time. He--
STILL: --was at UK at the time because he was, he was at Iowa maybe before or
after? He was leaving to go to Iowa--
STILL: --I think.
FEAMSTER: Yeah. Yeah. And he had, Lynn had been in the NCAA too. So um, and they
were leaving together. So it was a, wasn't on anybody's radar. I will
01:54:00say that, it was a complete shock to us.
STILL: Wow, it, you know, even talking about it right now, my stomach is in like
in a knot--
FEAMSTER: --I know. I'm, I'm kind of thinking about it myself.
FEAMSTER: I'm like--
STILL: --because it was such a shock for everyone--
FEAMSTER: --it was a shock for everybody--
STILL: --you know? And definitely I'll be talking with um Debbie about it
because, you know, she went on to do incredible, because that's the type of
person she is.
STILL: And, and I'm sure that if she stayed we would have won a national
championship or at least the final four, I think we would have at least gotten that.
FEAMSTER: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. No question.
STILL: Wow. Well, listen, Sue, I'm not going to keep you any longer this
session. We will have another one. We'll take on the new era with um Terry Hall.
Um is there anything else that you, you'd like to say within this session that
finishes with this, the Debbie Yow. What, what are your feelings
01:55:00towards her? And um, you know, after your experience with her at UK? And did you
all keep in contact after that?
FEAMSTER: --Well, she didn't (??)--
STILL: --Oh, and did she follow, apparently you were a good example for her as
far as being athletic director, because that's the field--
STILL: --she eventually goes into.
FEAMSTER: Well, you'll have to ask her about that, but uh we recently, she
recently wrote me, and we'd seen each other over the years. Uh different things,
and of course, if you remember, I got out of athletics in my own career.
FEAMSTER: And um, I hope I provided some um, inspiration for Deborah.
01:56:00Uh she certainly has achieved, had a fabulous career, both as a coach and an
athletic director and um, I think she, one of the things she wrote me was that,
she, she realizes now, when she was a coach, she didn't really quite understand
everything an athletic director did--
FEAMSTER: --you know, and how, you know, what's, what's necessary behind the
scenes for you--
FEAMSTER: --to be successful. And so I think she did experience all those things
because behind everything you see that goes on the floor, there's a whole team
of people wanting you to be successful. From the people that do your tickets to
the people that clean the floor to the, you know, the whole group, you take it,
it really does take a village to put on a team on the floor and um,
01:57:00know, I definitely know she knows that. And um, being an administrator for her
last what, fifteen, twenty years, she certainly knows that in spades, and she's,
she's, you know, she's done really well. And I, I give her every um, she, she
deserves every accolade that she's ever gotten, and she um, it was great to give
her a start in her career. And um, like many of the players that she coached,
Ceal Barry, set a great start in her career. You. Um, she has some great things
to remember and be very proud of.
STILL: Wow, on that, Sue, I think we're going to stop this session,
01:58:00uh you will come back, right?
FEAMSTER: I will come back.
STILL: Yeah, we're (??)--
FEAMSTER: --we're just now to--
FEAMSTER: --what year?
FEAMSTER: 1980. Terry, gosh, we've got a lot of thing to cover.
STILL: Yeah, that's when we all got bad, you know, it's our sophomore year. We
feel like we, you know, we've arrived. So we start--
FEAMSTER: --got a little swagger--
STILL: --uh huh, in Sue Feamster's office, over the Christmas break. No, we
won't talk about that.
FEAMSTER: Okay, are we going to talk about that and your empty suitcase? --(both laugh)--
STILL: Shh shh. But thanks again Sue, we will um, see you at the next session.
FEAMSTER: Great. Thank you.