Celebrating the Knight Life

by Bill Pucko, BylineSports.com 8/20/12


Judi Knight didn't bring home any of the 58 medals claimed by American women at the just concluded Olympic Games. But it was through the efforts of Knight and people like her over the past fifty years, that helped them become known as the Women's Games.

There were more women than men representing the United States in London. Women claimed more medals than their male teammates. For the first time, with the addition of women's boxing, all 26 sports at the Games were offered to both sexes.

For her part in all of this, Knight was introduced to a crowd at Frontier Field in Rochester Sunday as a member of the newly inducted 2012 Walk of Fame class.

Knight has been an administrator within Section Five athletics for thirty years. A longtime athletic director at Edison Tech, she became the first female president of Section Five in 1986. She was particularly active in helping her basketball players. One in particular stands out.

Bettina Love helped lead the Inventors to two Section Five titles and averaged 31 points per game as a senior in 1997. But she wasn't much of a student.

"One of the teachers at Edison told her that she was not college material," says Knight. "She took it as a challenge. She was failing and she came from failing grades to making the honor role by the time she was a senior."

Knight arranged for tutoring and helped stabilize her home life. Love did the rest. She played basketball at Old Dominion and the University of Pittsburgh, where she scored a masters degree in communications, and subsequently went on to earn a doctorate.

The passage of Title IX in 1972 opened the gymnasium doors for girls who were now legally entitled to equal opportunity on the playing fields. Over time, the results have been dramatic. Ask any of Rochester's Olympic champions, from Diann Roffe, a downhill skiing gold medalist at the 1994 Winter Olympics, to soccer star Abby Wambach, called by many our most accomplished athlete ever, male or female. Their successes were built on the efforts of people like Judy Knight, who unfortunately came around too soon to benefit herself.

"When I was in high school, we had no sports for women. I graduated in 1959 and we didn't have sports around till 1972 when Title IX was passed. Since then, it has been really remarkable how things have changed. There are just so many kids involved."

Trail blazer that she is, Knight nevertheless refuses to take much credit for the success of others.

"I was just doing my job," she says. "I had a great time."