A Whole New Game

Oct 21, 2023

In 2023, we’re celebrating 50 years of intercollegiate women’s sports. Here’s how a group of students and an assistant athletic director got the ball rolling, along with a tribute to the student-athletes, coaches, alumni, fans and donors who continue to build on the success of our women’s programs today.

Featured Testimonial About Creighton University

A whole new world hero image

I didn’t have the same athletic ability as Paul Silas, but when I put on that uniform, I felt like I was on the same level,” she says. “He was a Creighton athlete. Now I’m a Creighton athlete. That just stirred my soul.

Mary Higgins, BA’73 Former Creighton softball coach and hall of famer.
Mary Higgins with '70 softball team
Higgins with the softball team in the 1970s.

Fifty years of intercollegiate women’s sports at Creighton started one fall afternoon with a game of catch on the Deglman/ Swanson quad.  

“We were throwing the ball around, and we started talking about getting a team together,” says Mary Higgins, BA’73 — then a senior, later a Creighton softball coach and hall of famer. 

Mary soon led a group of students into the office of Dan Offenburger, assistant athletic director, and pitched him the idea for Creighton’s first intercollegiate women’s program. Dan (who had four daughters) signed off on the team and agreed to coach. Athletic Director Tom Apke and the Committee on the Status of Women gave their approval, as well, and Creighton’s first women’s program was born in time for the 1973 season. 

One of Mary’s proudest moments was putting on the uniform for the first time. 

The following semester, Creighton hired two women — Meta Johnson and Eddye McClure — to grow the women’s intercollegiate sports program, forming and coaching teams for women’s basketball, softball, swimming and volleyball. 

Mary Higgins at Leaders for Life 2023
Higgins at the Leaders for Life luncheon 2023

“Mary and many others have made huge strides for women at Creighton,” says head volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. “There’s still a long way to go. But they pushed women’s sports through and continue to fight for them today.” 

Every few years, Kirsten likes to bring Mary in to speak with the team about the early days — before the Ruth Scott Training Center, before the Ryan Athletics Center and D.J. Sokol

Arena, before scholarships and travel budgets. Those first softball teams didn’t have a field. They practiced in the Old Gym, fielding ground balls off a wood floor and rotating home plate around so the shortstop wouldn’t bump up against the wall. 

From those humble beginnings — and with the faith of countless coaches, student-athletes, alumni, fans and donors — women’s athletics at Creighton grew into everything it is today. 

“One thing I can’t stress enough,” Mary Higgins says, “is that Dan Offenburger, those first players, the administrators … they didn’t start women’s athletics because it was federally mandated by Title IX. They started it because it was the right thing to do. That made all the difference.”

More photos of Mary and other trailblazing Creighton athletes and coaches.  

Deb Conry 2
Debbie Conry coaching
Mary coaching the team in the old gym.
Higgins coaching in the old gym.
Mary Higgins coaching 1
Mary Higgins coaching Creighton's softball team.
Kirsten Booth and team
Booth coaching the 2022-2023 season team.
Mary Higgins 2
Higgins coaching.
Mary Higgins receiving award from Fr. Morrison
Jean Tierney Holt at bat
Jean Tierney Holt at bat.