President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX of the Education Amendments Act on June 23, 1972. This prohibited discrimination by gender of any federally funded education program.
Just like that, college women and high school girls were entitled to an equal opportunity to compete in athletics, creating a dramatic upheaval with the schools and also the mainstream sports media.
The NCAA didn’t get involved with a women’s tournament until 1982. The Big Ten didn’t have a regular season until the winter of 1982-83. Immaculata and Delta State were the early powers in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
The Minnesota media and public were searching for women’s basketball heroes. We found Janet Karvonen and her New York Mills teammates. There were two basketball classes, and the Eagles from the small Finnish town in Otter Tail County won Class A titles from 1977 to 1979.
The third came with a 61-52 victory over Albany and its star, Kelly Skalicky. And then came the shock: New York Mills’ attempt at four in a row ended with a 55-43 loss to Austin Pacelli in the 1980 semifinals.
“You don’t start out thinking you’re going to win four in a row, but we win one, two and three, and you start thinking anything less is not acceptable,” Karvonen said.
The 5-11 forward finished with 3,129 points, a state record that stood for 17 years. She spent her college years with two powers of the early ’80s: Old Dominion for two seasons, then two after sitting out a transfer year at Louisiana Tech.
She’s been a TV analyst, a basketball camp operator, and today Janet Karvonen-Montgomery, 57, is a pastor at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview.