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Amy Ruley remembers those early days of wanting steak and settling for hamburger, of watching from the back row as parades passed by, of feeling like Cinderella's booking agent.

Sadly for the 1974 Lowell grad, Title IX came too late.

Today, the legendary women's basketball coach and Hall of Famer from North Dakota State University modestly considers herself more of a "benefactor" than a pioneer, though her history suggests otherwise.

"When we were freshmen at Lowell, we bought our own uniforms — red shorts and matching tops," Ruley recalled. "It was maybe my junior year when the school actually ordered uniforms that we wore and we shared them for volleyball and basketball."

The Indiana High School Athletic Association did not sanction girls basketball as a sport until 1975-76, the year of its first state tournament. The Girls Athletic Association (GAA) had been the governing body.

"We were disappointed because we had a good team," Ruley said of missing the inaugural IHSAA tourney. "My senior year, we went through the highest level (of GAA) district play and we were done. That was it."

Back then, women weren't heavily recruited to play college ball but all Ruley wanted was a chance to compete and be coached by those who knew the game.

She attended Purdue and starred on its first women's varsity team in 1975-76, scoring the program's first basket on a steal and layup against Ohio State.

"No one can break that record," Ruley laughed.

Scholarships were not available to the female athletes at PurdueUntil her junior year. They paid tuition and played for love of the game.

Ruley's first year, the women's team practiced at the co-rec building and dingy Lambert Fieldhouse while the men worked out at Mackey Arena.

"And then when we walked into Mackey, we just went: 'WOW!' We looked around, stood in the middle of the floor and bounced the ball, and it sounded like a heartbeat," Ruley said. "You could hear the echo off the ceiling coming back down. That was fun for us, the opportunity to go over there to practice and play.

"Of course, we had to go after the guys whenever they were done. That was OK as far as we were concerned."

As a freshman, Ruley joined a peaceful sit-in at the Purdue Central Administration office when her group presented a student petition urging the athletic department to accept responsibility for women's sports opportunities on campus.

"It was my only opportunity to be a rebel," she said.

After graduation, Ruley's first coaching job took her to Fargo, N.D., land of moose and squirrel.

She ran the NDSU women's program from 1979 through 2008, winning five Division II titles — including four in a row — and fashioning a 671-198 record that featured 17 seasons of 24 or more wins.

Early in her coaching career, the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was the governing body until the NCAA began sponsoring women's championships in 1982-83.

In 2000 Ruley became the first woman inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, joining such greats as Phil Jackson, Roger Maris, Dale Brown and Lute Olson. She was inducted into the National Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Now the associate athletic director for development at North Dakota State, Ruley says it's been a long road with many twists, turns and potholes, but she's enjoyed every step of the journey.

"I think girls and boys don't realize how lucky they are to have an opportunity to compete," Ruley said. "It's a double-edge sword. Girls expect to be treated the same as boys and that's a good thing.

"You hope there's an appreciation for the effort and work that went into providing that opportunity."

North Dakota State officially achieved Division I status and became eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09, the year after Ruley retired from coaching.