JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tammie Talley was honored just to be there.
She didn’t expect to actually win.
Talley, the Duval County Public School athletic director, was named the National Athletic Director of the Year late Wednesday night in the annual National High School Athletic Coaches Association awards banquet in Altoona, Iowa.
Talley was one of eight finalists for the prestigious award. That was humbling enough. But to actually walk across the stage after hearing her name called as the winner is something Talley still had a challenge putting into words.
“It just made me think of all my hardworking athletic directors back in Jacksonville and how the awards that I win are a reflection of them and community partners and even the district and the support that I get from everybody,” she said. “So, it was just amazement, it was happiness, it was I can’t believe it. It was all those things mixed into a pot of just goodness.”
It came just hours before the historic 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming law that made it possible for more opportunities for women in education and in sports. Talley served as both the athletic director at Paxon and Mandarin — mixing in coaching roles in between — before elevating to the district position in 2012. She replaced Jon Fox, himself a hall of fame selection by several entities, and has knocked down barriers along the way.
In 2019, Talley was elected as the first female president of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association, an organization that was founded in 1936. The timing of the honor made it even more special for Talley. It came hours before the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that prevented discrimination in education based on sex. Education was the target of Title IX, but it has become identified with sports through the years.
According to Title IX data, the participation of girls in high school sports before that law was 294,015 in 1972. In 2018-19, the last year full data was available, that number was 3,402,733. In 1972, high school sports were dominated by male athletes (93% of athletes that year were boys). Now, 43% of all athletes in high school (2018-19 data) are female.
Talley said there’s no doubt that landmark law went into effect has helped shape her career and so many others.
“I’ve been posting and trying to highlight females in our district and the trailblazers that have paved the way but then you’re exactly right, to be able to get this award the day before the 50th anniversary of Title IX is just something that’s very exciting and I hold close to my heart,” Talley said.
“Because if it wasn’t for that, I may not have been a teacher and a coach and an athletic director at Paxon or Mandarin and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to have the opportunity to be the county athletic director, and then to win state awards to now this national award. I think it’s just full circle, that it happened when it did on the 50th anniversary. I’m just so humbled and so honored.”