The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC Hall of Fame inducts women’s sports program founder

Callahan Morgan
Associate Professor, Kathy O’Connor, photographed at center-court of the Sports Pavillion at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Sept.16. O’Connor was inducted into the Vaqueros Hall of Fame on Sept. 3.

After working at City College for 46 years, Kathy O’Connor was inducted into the Vaqueros hall of fame on Saturday, Sept. 3 for her success in the women’s sports program. 

According to O’Connor, being inducted into the Hall of Fame was an opportunity for growth. While she was honored, she struggled with spotlights and dreaded the attention.

“Fear is part of growth, right?” O’Connor said. “But you just jump in, do the best you can, and hope you don’t screw it up too badly.”

O’Connor began as a part-time instructor at City College, during that time she established a women’s athletics program before being hired full-time in 1976. 

Story continues below advertisement

In 1974, O’Connor began coaching women’s volleyball, the first women’s athletic team at City College, a couple years after Title IX  had been passed.

“When she was fighting for women’s sports at City College she left a legacy,” Interim Superintendent-President Kindred Murillo said. “She is responsible for the college’s 11 women’s sports teams.”

O’Connor became aware of the gender inequity in sports when she was in college at UCSB and had no chance to compete athletically. 

After graduating from college, she had the opportunity to be a PE teacher at a private school.

O’Connor was inspired by her previous coaching experience and the local high schools that started creating athletic programs for women. 

She advertised tryouts for an intercollege women’s volleyball team and 45 women showed up.

“Women were interested in competing in athletic competitions,” Associate Athletic Director Ellen O’Connor said. “They were capable of participating, they just needed an opportunity and Kathy was there to provide that.”

While Kathy O’Connor received great support from women in the athletic department, her biggest struggle was the budget and people who didn’t see value in what she was intending to do.

“Nobody was talking about gender equity in those days. It was pushing the envelope because of the lack of awareness,” O’Connor said. “Once you have that awareness it opens your mind, and that did begin to happen and we got people to support us and established a budget.”

Her next challenge is creating an equitable athletics building for all students. 

The current athletics facility was built before Title IX was passed, so there were no thoughts on women’s athletics. 

The new building that has been designed will not only offer better women’s facilities but also gender-neutral locker rooms and restrooms. 

O’Connor’s journey at City College can be summarized by her motto, “If it’s not broken, break it.”

According to O’Connor, this phrase is meant to be a commentary on how if you don’t change, you won’t grow. Even if something seems to be working okay, you may need to tear it apart to create something better. Sometimes you have to break something to fix it.

While City College has made major strides to close the inequality gap between men and women in athletics, the issue of sexism in sports is still prevalent today.  

O’Connor’s advice to women in sports is to keep fighting, “once we stop fighting, we truly die. In every way, physically, emotionally, and psychologically,” she said. “So all women and all people need to just keep fighting for what they believe in.”


More to Discover