- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Kelly Krauskopf still remembers those tough old days at Texas A&M.

Back then, the women’s basketball coach was buying paint for the players to renovate their own locker room. The team’s preseason trip was to J.C. Penny’s for discounted travel bags, and when things got cold during the winter, players simply put on extra clothing in the unheated practice gym.

Three decades later, the Aggies are drawing more than 6,100 fans to games and the program that Krauskopf called one of the nation’s worst has become one of the nation’s best.

“Bob Gates said when he hired me that he wanted us to have the best sports program in the country,” athletic director Bill Byrne said, referring to the former university president who is now the U.S. defense secretary. “We work to do that every day.”

Mission accomplished.

The Aggies women’s basketball team will play for its first national title Tuesday night against Notre Dame. The softball, women’s swimming and diving teams and track and field teams are already national powerhouses. The women’s soccer team finished the season ranked in the top 10 and the equestrian team is ranked No. 1.

It hasn’t been easy changing attitudes at a university that began as an all-male military school. Some alumni opposed the decision to begin admitting women in 1963, and school administrators didn’t always see the advantage of funding men’s and women’s sports equally when Title IX passed in 1972.

The ramifications were felt by female athletes, such as Krauskopf, for decades.

The earliest players dressed in the men’s locker rooms, and some contended they were harassed on campus.

Forward Danielle Adams, the first All-American in school history, is still amazed by what she hears.

“We wore the same uniforms every year and we used duct tape on our travel bags,” said Krauskopf, a 1983 A&M graduate and now general manager of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.

Krauskopf knew it wasn’t this way everywhere.

After graduating from high school in 1979, Krauskopf enrolled at Stephen F. Austin, a small school in Nacogdoches, Texas, with a reputation as one of women’s basketball premier schools.

The next year, she transferred to A&M and found a program in tatters. Female players drew the short stick on practice facilities and times. They crammed 13 players into a minivan to travel to games and fans didn’t even need tickets to attend games.

The lack of funding and support was reflected on game day.

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