People sometimes asked sportswriter Tracy Dodds how she could cover sports if she’d never been an athlete.
"How can you cover a murder trial if you've never murdered anybody?" she replied.
Often faced with sexism and hostility, Dodds carried her wit, humor and gumption with her through a long and lucrative career in sports journalism. One of the first women to cover sports for a major publication, Dodds knew she was a trailblazer. It wasn't until later that she realized she'd helped pave the way for women in journalism.
The myriad sports Dodds has covered include Big Ten football and basketball, hockey, auto-racing, boxing, swimming and diving. In 1984, 1988 and 1996, she was an on-site reporter and editor at the Olympics.
In 1988, she helped found the Association for Women in Sports Media, later serving as its national president. She was the first elected female president of the Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2014, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame.
Amidst those incredible honors, the seemingly insignificant successes stand out, too. Dodds recalled the day she received a letter from a reader that began,"Dear Mr. Dodds, You're an idiot."
Elated, Dodds shared the letter with coworkers.
"He was calling me an idiot solely on the quality of my writing," Dodds said. "Not because I was a woman."
Before graduating from IU in 1973 with a degree in journalism and political science, Dodds got her start at the Bloomington Herald-Telephone, now the Herald-Times, under the mentorship of sports editor Bob Hammel.
In 1974, she was hired as a sportswriter for the Milwaukee Journal. It was an uphill battle. Her first week, the Journal's assistant sports editor Bill Dwyre told her she never should have been hired.
Seven years later, Dwyre would write her a glowing farewell column as she moved on to the Houston Post.
At the Post, Dodds was the only female conference columnist, covering the now-defunct Southwest Conference. Less than two years later, Dwyre would call her and offer her a coveted position at the Los Angeles Times.
Dodds' years at the L.A. Times would have her covering UCLA and the Kings.
"I came back from the '88 Olympics, jet-lagged on no sleep, and covered Wayne Gretzky's first game with the Kings," she recalled.
After many years as a writer, Dodds moved into sports editing. She served as assistant sports editor at the L.A. Daily News, assistant sports editor at the Orange County Register, sports editor at the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman and associate sports editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"There weren't a lot of women in sports writing then, but there were very few women in sports editing," she recalled.
Upon leaving the Plain Dealer, Dodds returned to Indiana to write for The Indianapolis Star before moving home to Lafayette to be closer to family and to start her next career. She's now director of grants at the YWCA of Greater Lafayette, where she helps further the organization's mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
"Grants fund the mission," Dodds said. "That gives me a reason to get up in the morning and get to the office, where I work with some amazing women doing amazing service."