Cathy Bochain ’83 (PHR) does not see herself as a pioneer of UConn athletics, but as more of a bridge-builder to the success that Husky teams enjoy today.
Bochain was a member of the first freshman class of women’s basketball student-athletes in which every member was on scholarship, and she graduated as the all-time leader in scoring and steals in University history. There were women’s basketball players on scholarship before, but never a whole class – a direct result of the passage of the landmark federal Title IX legislation in 1972.
Bochain will be among hundreds of former UConn women student-athletes that are returning to campus on the weekend of October 14-16 for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the commemoration of an enduring legacy of UConn women’s athletics since its varsity inception in 1974.
Former UConn student-athletes who have not registered yet for the weekend are welcome to do so at this special website.
‘These things would not have happened’
Bochain grew up in Plainfield, and played the usual sports while growing up with her brothers and friends.
“It wasn’t very cool for girls to play with the boys, but I did, and I got picked on a bit, but that made me pretty tough,” says Bochain. “We had an old Little League field near our house, and we played baseball all summer and football in the fall. I came to basketball a little late, but as I started to play it more and more, not only did I like it, but I was pretty good at it.”
Bochain enjoyed a standout basketball career at Plainfield High School and was encouraged by her coach, Claudia Combies, to pursue a college scholarship.
“She was a real feminist for the era,” says Bochain of her coach. “She had a bulletin board outside our gym that had pictures of people like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and the Connecticut Falcons softball team. She was very progressive and made sure we knew the opportunities out there.”
Bochain was also part of the first wave of girls’ AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) teams, and beat out 4,000 players at a tournament in Boston for a spot on a prestigious team that included future US national team member Medina Dixon and the 1985 NCAA tournament most outstanding player, Tracy Claxton.
Bochain was recruited heavily by colleges and received scholarship offers from Yale, Boston University, and Boston College, but choose to come to UConn and its nationally renowned School of Pharmacy.
To this day, she is grateful for the opportunity of a full scholarship and to graduate debt-free. She also credits Title IX with the opportunities she had in high school, college, and in AAU.
“Everyone has well-wishes and thinks that equality will evolve, but without Title IX, these things would have not happened, so it was really important,” says Bochain.
‘Athletics help to make you a successful person’
Bochain, who grew up in the Moosup section of Plainfield, also was inspired to come to UConn by Moosup’s famous Dropo family – the “first family of UConn athletics,” which included Walter, Milton, and George. George was an assistant principal at Plainfield High School when Bochain was in school.
“George would always call me into his office to show me all his UConn memorabilia, especially after I took a recruiting visit to another school,” says Bochain. “He would always say, ‘You’re going to UConn, right?’”
Bochain’s Plainfield teams enjoyed great fan support from the school and community, and gyms were packed for games.
“Eastern Connecticut has always had real good girls’ basketball,” she says, “and there were great crowds all over the region.”
That wasn’t the case when Bochain arrived at UConn in the fall of 1979. This was pre-Geno Auriemma and pre-Gampel Pavilion, when the games in the Field House were a friends-and-family affair.
“We had more people from Plainfield at our games than anywhere else,” says Bochain, who would recruit students and faculty from the College of Pharmacy to come to games. They became the team’s biggest supporters.
“Being a student-athlete and a pharmacy major was not easy, but the two things balanced out for me,” says Bochain. “If I had a bad school day, I would go to the gym and work on things, and if I had a bad game, I knew there was an exam to study for.”
Bochain has gone out to a successful professional career as a pharmacist for CVS and for many years worked at locations in Storrs, becoming an even bigger part of the campus fabric.
“I really got to know so many people from the faculty, coaches, and students, and got to watch the campus grow,” says Bochain.
Bochain enjoys a “family-like” relationship with the current UConn women’s basketball coaches and staff, and was on the search committee that hired Auriemma in 1985. She was actually the one that picked him up from the airport for his job interview.
“As I met him and got to talk to him a little bit, I knew he was the right choice with his personality and charisma,” says Bochain.
She credits her athletic experience to this day as helping her in many aspects of life.
“The real working world is challenging, and having a sports background teaches you intestinal fortitude, resiliency, and grit,” says Bochain. “Pharmacy work is hard, especially now, and you have to buckle down and be focused. I work as hard at my job as I ever did in athletics. I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail with a 50-pound pack. Athletics help to make you a successful person and also teaches you to feel like you’ve had a good day.”