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What is the Deal?
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December 22, 2002
What is the deal with Title IX?
By Jan A. Larson
Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, very simply, banned any discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational program that received Federal funding. Seems simple enough. Seems fair enough.
It has apparently worked too. According to a recent USA Today article, there are nearly nine times more girls playing sports at the high school level today versus 1972 and, since the NCAA took over the administration of women’s intercollegiate athletics in 1981, participation has more than doubled. The tremendous increase in the participation of women in high school and intercollegiate athletics eventually led the formation of women’s professional sports leagues.
The gains by women in athletics have not come without a cost. Title IX basically requires that if a particular university has 55% of their student body made up of women, then 55% roughly plus or minus 1% of that school’s athletes must be women. Obviously there are two ways to achieve “proportionality,” those being to add opportunities for women, the desired outcome, or cut men’s sports, the unintended consequence.
It is far easier for budget strapped administrators to cut a non-revenue producing men’s sport than it is to add expenses to the budget by fielding more women’s teams. It is estimated that approximately 170 intercollegiate wrestling programs have been eliminated. Other “minor” men’s sports such as gymnastics, baseball and swimming have been cut. On the other side, schools such as Michigan and Arizona State are adding women’s rowing teams going so far as to advertise for “athletes” to come out for the sport.
Can any act, no how well intentioned, be considered successful when opportunities are lost? What does it say when schools have to advertise for students to fill out their women’s teams? It says to me that Title IX, for all of the benefits that have resulted since its implementation, needs to be fixed.
In June of 2002, a Commission on Opportunity in Athletics was formed to review Title IX and its implications. It is widely expected that the Commission will recommend changes that will water down the proportionality requirements.
Of course there are strong opinions on both sides but the one that proponents of Title IX constantly bring up is the disproportionate weight that football has in the athletic departments. They will offer that if institutions would reduce scholarships from 85 to 60 and reduces coaches’ salaries in football and basketball they would have plenty of money to fund the so-called minor sports for men.
Once again this is a shortsighted viewpoint. Football and basketball pay the bills for the entire athletic department at most major schools. And even more to the point, there is a huge public demand for college football and basketball. If the “solution” to the problem involves the de-emphasis, i.e. budget cutting, of football and basketball, the golden goose will be dead and there will be plenty women joining the male gymnasts and wrestlers on the sidelines wondering just what became of their athletic opportunities.
There is no need to make major changes to Title IX. It has served the purpose of increasing opportunities for women but it some changes are required. It is ludicrous that male athletes lose opportunities while women's teams go begging for athletes.
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