LINDA BLAKLEY: Welcome to DePaul Download. I’m your host, Linda Blakley. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that removed barriers for women in education and sports. It’s also a year DePaul is celebrating the induction of legendary Coach Doug Bruno into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
In his 36 years as head coach at DePaul, Coach Bruno has been a staunch advocate for the equal treatment of women. He has led the women’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament 25 times and been on the coaching staff of two gold-medal winning Olympics teams. He’s a former DePaul basketball player himself and a DePaul alumnus. And I’m honored that he’s joining DePaul Download today.
Welcome, Coach Bruno.
DOUG BRUNO: Thanks for having me, Linda.
LINDA BLAKLEY: In your 36 years as head coach, what is the most important way you’ve seen Title IX influence women’s athletics?
DOUG BRUNO: The growth and scholarships, I mean back when Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto and her group came here to DePaul there were no scholarships, they just played for the love of the game – four sports and all the athletes were playing three and four sports and had to play three or four – they loved to play three or four sports. But then scholarships, first, the scholarships were partial tuition scholarships, then they began to become full scholarships, then they began to become full scholarships with room and board and tuition, books and fees – full scholarships, fully funding in women’s basketball, and then volleyball, and then all sports to the point whereas today, there is fully funding of the women’s program here at DePaul. The women’s athletes are fully funded now.
And then the – just take a look at travel. We used to drive our own cars, and we’d put 12 women in the back of a cargo van. School buses came next. Then we were blessed to have charter busses with bathrooms. Then we got to fly commercial air. And the next thing you know, we’re chartering to our Big East games. So there’s another example of how there’s been growth. So just the growth and the scholarships, the number of scholarships, the number of team members throughout our DePaul programs – women’s programs – that is how we’ve seen it grow.
LINDA BLAKLEY: So at DePaul, we like to ask the question: “What must be done?” So what must be done for women’s athletics to achieve closer equality with men’s athletics?
DOUG BRUNO: Well, whereas we are fully funded, just the coverage of DePaul women’s basketball – I’m just going to speak to DePaul women’s basketball. Two to 8% of all media, mainstream media, coverage in America is on women’s sports. So for our women’s program to be covered by the mainstream media – not just social media – mainstream media, newspapers, television – to help us market our product so that we can grow the game by putting people on the stands. There’s a – this is a place that we have an immediate sense of urgency right now.
LINDA BLAKLEY: What do you think causes reluctance among marketers to do just that?
DOUG BRUNO: I’m not sure it’s marketers or – I mean, basically, the media has been run by males, and so therefore, sports as an industry has been a male-dominated industry. So I just think it’s a matter of minds being opened and eyes being opened and the recognition and understanding that the true competitive spirit of an athlete transcends gender and that women’s sports are a very marketable event.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Everyone at DePaul is so proud to see the women’s basketball Hall of Fame recognize you for your coaching and your character. Former long-time DePaul Athletic Director Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto told us this story about you.
JEANNE LENTI PONSETTO: Back in 1990 when we were going to our first NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, and we always had these great sound systems in – whether it was the old Alumni Hall or now the Sullivan Athletics Center. But at the time it was the Alumni Hall facility. And I happened to walk in that day and as I walked in, Coach Bruno was on the court and the team was getting ready for practice. And the song “No Surrender” was playing by Bruce Springsteen. And if you listen to the lyrics of it, it goes on to say that, “You say you’re tired and you just ask – you want to close your eyes and follow your dreams down. Well, we made a promise we swore we’d always remember: No retreat, no surrender.” And everybody had on a t-shirt, student athletes and managers, all of our young women, and our student managers, that said, “No retreat, no surrender” on it. And so I think that’s just so typical of not only his approach and how competitive he was in wanting to win and instill that competitiveness or bring out that competitiveness in our young women, but that’s his approach toward everything that had anything to do with equity and Title IX and really wanting our women student-athletes to have every opportunity.
LINDA BLAKLEY: So what does this honor mean to you?
DOUG BRUNO: Linda, the Hall of Fame honor, first of all, I’m thankful, I’m honored, I’m humbled, yes. But basically, it’s a – I started coming to work here at DePaul many, many years ago and just rolled up my sleeve every day and went to work. And I’ve been blessed to have great administrations through the years. Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto was a great athletic director. She’s a former captain. DeWayne Peevy has come in here and done just a great job of accepting – not accepting – embracing and pushing forth women’s athletics here at DePaul.
So I’ve been blessed with great administrations through the years. The Vincentian Fathers, when we all started with Title IX back in 1972, had to embrace and want to provide opportunities for women, so I’ve been blessed with great administration. I’ve been blessed with great assistant coaches. Right now, Jill Pizzotti, Lisa Ryckbosch, Candis Blankson are my present staff members, and they’ve been with me a long time, but I’ve had great assistant coaches through the years. And then I’ve been blessed to have great, talented young women players.
So I don’t even think about the Hall of Fame. I really don’t. I’d trade it tomorrow for a few more wins for any of these teams during the years and a few more NCAA Tournament wins for a couple of these very talented teams. So I don’t even think about it. Yes, I’m humbled. Yes, I’m thankful. Yes. Yeah, sure, there’s a pride there but you just – we have work to do.
We’ve got a team we’ve got to prepare for next year. We want to be better. We want to get ourselves back into the NCAA Tournament. We want to start moving in that tournament. We want to get to the final four. We want to win a national championship. So I don’t have time to think about the Hall of Fame.
LINDA BLAKLEY: I’m hearing “no retreat, no surrender” in your response there. We know our students have gone through a lot during these pandemic years. How do you inspire positivity in your players when the going gets tough?
DOUG BRUNO: There’s no question that what these young women have had to do here through the pandemic has been very, very difficult. Basically, the ’21 season, the 2020-’21 season was a house arrest season. Everybody was basically sent back to their room and the only thing they didn’t have was an ankle monitoring system, but basically, they had to go to their room and shut the door and could go nowhere else. So it’s been very, very difficult on them, and yet, I’ve just been impressed by my group just forging forth and forging forward and just forging ahead.
And it’s not been easy, but at the same time, we run a program here that’s long had one of our themes being: “No excuses, team.” When you join the United States Military Academy at West Point and the first thing they tell you as a plebe is, “You’ve got four responses: Yes, sir. No, sir. I don’t understand the question, sir. No excuses, sir.” Well, I’m not going to have my women call me “sir” ever.
So we just take out the “sir” and put in “team,” all right? No excuses, team. We’ve been talking about no one teaching no excuses, team, from the time we started here at DePaul. You want to look at what the other people have and compare yourself to what other people have. There’s always a reason to make an excuse. Some programs got more of this. Some programs got more of that. No excuses, team. All, right? Nobody cares what one program has or what one program doesn’t have. No excuses, team. We must forge forward.
And some might say, “OK, that’s great, coach, year in and year out, but during a pandemic? Are you really going to stay that same course during the tragedy of a pandemic?” And it’s yes and no. Yes, you must be more in tune with the fact that the players are truly on this house arrest situation where they have to go back to four walls and they can only really read a book or watch a TV set or get on a computer. And there’s not much else that they can do. At the same time, if we want to let that be a reason why we can’t forge ahead, what are our alternatives? All right? Just, you know, cash it in and say, “There’s a pandemic. Let’s just…” I mean, some people just said, “We’re not playing.” And I know the players all chose to want to play.
So we just forged through it the best we could, and I really do admire our players for what they put into these last – the ’21 and ’22 seasons. And let’s not forget our seniors, Kelly Campbell and Chante Stonewall who had to put together a great 2020 season and were poised with 28 wins to house two home games – host two – host NCAA games at Wintrust. And that got taken from those seniors, and they didn’t get the extra year. So it’s just a lot that a lot of different people have put into this or had to deal with on different levels.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Well, we know you’ve put a lot into it, and I want to close by saying congratulations, again, coach, on your Hall of Fame induction. And thank you for your no surrender approach to advocating for women’s athletics.
DOUG BRUNO: Well, again, those are – Springsteen wrote those words, but they were – basically, they’re very appropriate to the fight for gender equality because you can never retreat, you can never surrender, and the battle is never over. Thank you, Linda, for having me on. It’s just been an honor to be here.
LINDA BLAKLEY: I’m your host, Linda Blakley. Thank you for listening to DePaul Download, presented by DePaul’s Division of University Marketing and Communications.