When Karen Mullins injured her knee during her first season on the UConn women’s basketball team in 1975-76, she had to convince the athletic department’s doctor to perform the ensuing cartilage operation.
“He didn’t want to operate on me because it was gonna leave scars and he didn’t think that it was appropriate for, what he said, ‘a little lady to have scars on her legs,’” Mullins said. “They were definitely hesitant to perform an operation on a female athlete.”
At the time, Mullins, who also played softball for UConn, was paying her own way because there weren’t any athletic scholarships for women. Having the surgery meant she couldn’t work over the summer and would therefore struggle to afford tuition. So Wanda Flora, the program’s first full-time coach, approached the athletic department about getting Mullins some assistance.