In 1955 a group of female students came together to form Ouachita’s very first women’s basketball team.
The group of friends was asked to play in a benefit game in Texarkana, Texas, at the junior college.
Coach Bill Vining helped the girls get a team together and held the title as their coach.
Carolyn Moffatt, who was a student at the time, was a part of the team and would serve as its leader. Moffatt later went on to be head coach of the team.
Few colleges had women’s basketball teams in the 50s and 60s. Because of this, beginning around 1955, the women’s team from Ouachita had to play AAU teams from around the state.
The teams that they would play against would have players that might be as old as 25 to 30.
“Ouachita was one of the first teams to play AAU basketball, and before that they just played 3 on 3,” said Todd Knight, Ouachita’s head football coach.
The university did not help much in the way of finances for the team; there was no budget provided from the school.
It was up to the team to fund itself when it came to travelling and finding places to stay for AAU tournaments.
The AAU era saw some of the best basketball players in America play at Ouachita.
“Again, there were few colleges for young ladies to play so Ouachita was attractive to the best,” said coach Garry Crowder, current head coach of Ouachita’s women’s basketball team.
The team won multiple AAU championships and this past October was inducted into Ouachita’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Finally, in 1972 it was recognized that women deserved the same rights as men athletically and Title 9 was passed.
Before 1975, intercollegiate conferences were formed but the girls decided to finish their AAU season.
Once Title 9 was passed, Ouachita no longer had the most appealing team in the state, which led to a major decline in the recruits.
“From 1976-1995 Ouachita played first in the Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association, which was made up of most of the colleges in Arkansas we compete with today.
“SAU, HSU, UAM, Arkansas Tech, UCA, Ozarks, and Harding were universities that were a part of this,” Crowder said.
In the 80s, the women’s basketball team played in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, which was where the men’s team had played.
“The 1986 team won its regional tournament and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament.”
The NCAA years have been mostly good with 14 winning seasons in the 18 years of NCAA Division II competition,” Crowder said.
From 1995 to 2000, Ouachita’s women’s basketball saw significant advances within the program.
In 1995 the team joined NCAA Division II, in 1996 the team was a provisional part of the NCAA.
From 1997-2000, Ouachita joined the Lone Star Conference. In the 2000-2001 season, Ouachita switched to the Gulf South Conference.
“In the 18 years of NCAA Division II, Ouachita has been ranked or receiving votes to be ranked in the National Top 25 in 11 of the 18 seasons,” Crowder said.
Last year, the Ouachita women’s basketball team joined the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference, which includes schools from Arkansas and Oklahoma.
“Being the head coach for the program, I believe it is important to know where we have been and where we are today. The program has a proud history, I would love to share that with others,” Crowder said.