The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was founded in 1971 to govern collegiate women’s athletics and to administer national championships. During its existence, the AIAW and its predecessor, the Division for Girls' and Women's Sports (DGWS), recognized via these championships the teams and individuals who excelled at the highest level of women's collegiate competition.
After the 1981–82 academic year, the AIAW discontinued sponsorship of national championships and later was legally dissolved. At this time, the NCAA assumed sole sanctioning authority of its member schools' women's sports programs.
== Governing bodies of women's collegiate athletics through 1982 ==
The Division of Girls and Women's Sports (DGWS), a division of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (AAHPER), was the first nationally recognized collegiate organization for women’s athletics and the forerunner of the AIAW. The Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) operated under the auspices of the DGWS. The CIAW governed from 1966 until February, 1972, and conducted championships in eight sports.
During the 1972–73 season, the first full academic year of its operation, the AIAW offered its first eight national championships in the same eight sports (badminton, basketball, golf, gymnastics, softball, swimming & diving, track & field, and volleyball).
In years when small-college championships (Division II or III) were not contested, and in sports without divisions, there was open competition among eligible teams.
Except as noted below, the NCAA sponsored its first women's championship in each sport in the 1981–82 academic year. Individual athletic programs and, in some cases, individual teams within a program were permitted to choose to participate in either the AIAW or NCAA competitions (or both in a few instances). The NCAA has never sponsored championship competition in badminton, synchronized swimming, or slow-pitch softball.
Compilations of collegiate records by the NCAA, continuing into 2006, have ignored or segregated the contributions of AIAW athletes. Major college basketball's career women's scoring leader, Lynette Woodard of the University of Kansas, speaking on the exclusion of AIAW statistics, said, "Basketball doesn't just start with when the NCAA blessed it. And it's not about Jackie (NCAA career scoring leader ) and it's not about Lynette. It's about history. History is history."〔
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