Sports

Female kicker 3-for-3 in Division I football debut

Ashley Martin became the first woman to play in a Division I football game, kicking three extra points without a miss to help Jacksonville State hand Cumberland its 18th straight loss.

Teammates chanted "Ashley, Ashley!" in the locker room after Thursday night's game as coach Jack Crowe presented her with the game ball from the Gamecocks' 71-10 victory.

"I didn't do a thing," the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Martin said. "All these guys put all the heart and hard work in it."

Cumberland already was on the short end of a famed record: The Bulldogs lost 222-0 to Georgia Tech on Oct. 7, 1916, in what remains the most lopsided score in college football history.

A huge cheer went up from the crowd of 11,312 as Martin ran on the field for the first time for Division I-AA Jacksonville State, her brown ponytail dangling down her back.

The standing ovation got louder when she put the ball through the uprights to give Jacksonville State a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Martin's kick, made easier by an offside penalty against Cumberland, landed just short of an adjacent field house. Earlier, starting kicker Steven Lee put his point-after on the roof to cap the first drive.

But that didn't matter. Martin punched the air after the kick and ran to the sidelines, where she was greeted by teammates and coaches who patted her on the helmet.

Martin, who also plays for Jacksonville State's soccer team, added two more extra points in the first and fourth quarters with room to spare. Both kicks were low, but Crowe said they were good enough for him.

"If there's not a soccer conflict, she'll be in uniform," he said.

The NCAA doesn't keep such records, but Martin by all counts was the first female to play in Division I.

Father Wayne Martin called his daughter's achievement "awesome."

"I almost teared up at the end," he said.

At least two other women have suited up in Division I games without playing. Kathy Klop dressed out for Louisville in 1995 and Katie Hnida for Colorado in 1999, but neither saw action.

Crowe invited Martin to join the team this season after it appeared the Gamecocks needed an extra kicker.

But Martin had an obvious distinction: She was the only Gamecocks player shadowed by network TV crews and news photographers.

Martin won the chance to kick during fall drills, making 20 of 22 extra points during scrimmages.

She also kicked in high school, going 2-of-4 on field goals and 79-of-92 on extra points. She was selected homecoming queen at East Coweta High School, located southwest of Atlanta, and accepted the crown in her uniform.

The only woman to previously score in a college football game was Liz Heaston, who kicked two extra points for then-NAIA Williamette University in 1997.

The most famous attempt to break the Division I gender barrier came at Duke, where Heather Sue Mercer was cut from the team in 1995 and again in 1996. Mercer won $2 million in a discrimination lawsuit against Duke, which is appealing the amount of the judgement but not the verdict.

By Jay Reeves