The Experiment That Worked

October 28, 2005

Last night, in Syracuse, NY, the "experiment" worked. It worked so well that it won a contest in the Big East tournament for the first time in four post-season attempts. Congratulations to the players and coaches on the women's soccer team for reaching this hard-earned milestone. Looking forward, such a victory may some day be commonplace, perhaps even expected. But fourteen years ago, for the experiment that was once women's soccer, it would have been just a pipedream.

Women's soccer was bound to happen on the Georgetown campus. In fact, a club team formed in the mid-1980's. I remember my sister, Moira, playing on those first intercollegiate clubs. And it might have remained a club sport indefinitely but for the advocacy and financial support of Ed (C'66) and Irene Shaw, two of the most ardent fans of Georgetown sports that you'll ever meet. They once had this notion and somehow convinced then AD Frank Rienzo that women's soccer should have a place on the varsity menu of Hoya athletic offerings.

Irene and Ed Shaw

There was no increased budget available at the time for a new sport, or for a new coach, or for uniforms, or for travel; no new locker rooms; and no new fields. How then do you even begin to think about a new varsity program with zero additional resources? In much the same fashion as most of our athletic programs were then able to operate: with blue smoke and mirrors. And, in this instance, there was one additional secret ingredient: Ed and Irene. The persistent and generous nudging of the Shaws was the clinching factor that opened the gates to women's futbol on the Hilltop.

So it was that in the spring of 1992, women's soccer was first sponsored by Georgetown as an "experimental sport," played in a non- traditional season, under the supervision of the men's soccer coach, using out-of-season men's soccer facilities such as the locker room and field, and with equipment, uniforms and travel underwritten by the Shaw's. And by the fall of 1993, this experiment became a full-fledged varsity, with its own head coach,                                                                                                                     budget and traditional fall season.

Sequel: next time you walk onto campus through the front gates, check out the plaque affixed to the left gate post. Back in the 20th century after the original gates were removed, the front portal to the University was gate-less for many years. The originals were supposedly buried at Georgetown in a location that no one can remember. Yet during the past decade, someone had a notion to recreate and restore those wrought iron gates.

Every time I now walk through this entry to Healy circle from O Street, I think with fondness of the couple whose persistence and generosity metaphorically and literally opened gates of opportunity for future generations of Hoyas.

Thanks again, Ed and Irene, and congrats on the milestone soccer victory.

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