Washington State University and its athletic department were recognized Tuesday as one of four recipients of the inaugural “Opportunity Awards,” presented by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

This is the third national accolade the WSU Athletic Department has received in the 2006-07 academic year. The department was bestowed with the Diversity in Athletics Award for Overall Excellence in Diversity and Title IX Compliance by the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University; additionally, it was honored as a Program of Excellence by the Division I-A Athletic Directors’ Association.

Founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation’s mission is to advance the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.

In an effort to recognize schools that consistently provide equitable opportunities to their female student-athletes and set a tone in their athletic department that reflect the schools’ overall ideals and aspirations, the foundation created the Opportunity Awards.

The foundation selected one school from each region of the country that represents these qualities and can serve as ambassadors for their segment of the country.  WSU is the West region recipient.

“This award enhances Washington State University’s strong history of promoting diversity in athletics,” WSU President Dr. Elson S. Floyd said. “WSU takes pride in accepting this honor, which is a significant achievement for our intercollegiate athletic program.”

“Our commitment to diversity is a key component in fulfilling our vision to provide one of the best student-athlete experiences in the nation, and being designated as one of the select programs in the country to receive this award is a tremendous honor,” WSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said.

“We have created a culture at WSU that values equity in all we do,” said WSU Senior Associate Director of Athletics Marcia Saneholtz, who accepted the award from King in a ceremony today at the HBO Studios in New York City. “It is a core value for the department and as such, influences our entire decision making.

“It is a tremendous honor for the department and the university to be recognized for our efforts by the Women’s Sports Foundation,” Saneholtz added. “The foundation has made a tremendous difference for girls and women in sport at all levels, from the grass roots to the professional arena.”

Several criteria were used in determining the recipients of the award. This included an “A” grade in the foundation’s research report card; similar population of male and female undergraduates and athletes; having a football program; no Title IX discrepancies in the past decade; equitable athletic budgets for the men’s and women’s programs, and having athletic departments that serve at least 100 student-athletes.

“We applaud these schools for setting great examples,” said Aimee Mullins, President of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Schools can treat female athletes as well as their male counterparts and still boast a top athletic program.”