Gov. Terry Branstad called E. Wayne Cooley a visionary who helped elevate Iowa girls’ basketball to a national phenomenon – something that touched Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds directly as a forward for Interstate 35 High School during the heyday of six-on-six basketball in the state.
During his weekly news conference Monday, Branstad paid tribute to Cooley as a pioneer of Iowa girls’ sports. Cooley, who died last Saturday at the age of 90, ran the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union — the nation’s only statewide athletic association dedicated to girls — from 1954 until his retirement in 2002.
“E. Wayne Cooley was a visionary leader for girls’ athletics,” said Branstad. “He made it phenomenally successful.
“He was a great marketer and promoter,” the governor added. “He’s going to be greatly missed. He has a really wonderful legacy that he leaves in terms of girls’ athletics.”
Under Cooley’s guidance, the girls’ union expanded from three sports — basketball, golf and tennis — to nine programs. Cooley, who was named to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, helped develop the state six-player girls’ basketball tournament into an event that outdrew the boys’ tournament and got national media attention.
“If you were in the state tournament, the town literally would shut down,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who played forward for the Interstate 35 High School girls’ basketball team. “We loaded the school bus and we drove to Des Moines and we participated. It was one of the highlights of the year. It was a great, great opportunity for small communities all across Iowa.”
Memorial services for Cooley have been set for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, 3700 Cottage Grove Ave. in Des Moines.