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Women's History Month: Hardy launched women's basketball

On March 13, 2021

Sue (Kruszewski) Hardy. / Photo courtesy of Titans Sports Info

BY ALLIE FALK / VN STAFF WRITER

Few women pioneers have more significantly impacted the university than Sue Hardy.

In 1978, she became not only the first women’s basketball coach at what was then the University of Detroit, but she also was named women’s athletic advisor and worked with the softball team and cheerleading squad, too.

Famed university coach and athletic director Dick Vitale, who would go on to national fame with ESPN, reached out to Hardy, who had been coaching successfully at Detroit Dominican High School, and convinced her to launch the university’s women's basketball program.

Hardy said Vitale leaped on opportunities for women to be treated equally at the university in sports. He made sure to supply Hardy with equal opportunities for the women's team, she said.

“In those days, almost all the athletic directors were men,” Hardy said, “and they were not supportive of their women's programs. But he was. He gave us the same size locker room as the men had, brand new uniforms, great scholarship offers and equal food and travel expenses. Whatever the men had, the women got as well.” 

Under Hardy’s leadership (her last name was Kruszewski back then), the women's basketball team flourished right off the bat, winning 15 straight games. 

Hardy and the university also hosted a national tournament, the Coca-Cola Classic, which drew three top national teams its first year and quickly grew to include the top 20 teams in the country.

The Coca-Cola Classic tournament drew thousands of spectators.

With Vitale’s support, Hardy developed the program quickly.

Her passion for women's basketball saw the Titans advance at a rapid rate. 

They became well known as one of the top teams in the nation. 

“Having a new team and gaining respect immediately for our records was exciting,” Hardy said. “Watching them (student-athletes) grow with the opportunity to travel all over the nation to places from Vegas to Alaska was memorable.”

Coaches of women's sports teams have the potential to heavily influence young women, and further their success as players and people.

It works the other ways, too, and Hardy remembers her players fondly.

“Every one of those kids turned out to be wonderful,” she said. 

Hardy’s success led to a huge job opportunity at the University of Washington, and she left the Titans after a few years.

But her contributions while here led to her induction into the Titan Hall of Fame – and the start of a Division I athletic program that has benefitted hundreds of young women.

 

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