July 24, 2002
30 years of growth in sports is related to Title IX
By TOM WILLIAMS
A few weeks ago NBC had great Sunday ratings with its coverage of the Wimbledon finals and the U.S.
Open. Of course, there is nothing new about those events drawing large numbers of fans. What made this
particular Sunday unique was that the excitement was created by the Williams sisters on the legendary
grass courts and Juli Inkster overcoming Annika Sorenstam on the golf course.
That might not have happened without Title IX.
It was 30 years ago, at the start of the second term of Richard Nixon as President, that Title IX became
law as one of the Educational Amendments of 1972. It says, very simply, that sex discrimination in
education programs that receive or benefit from federal funding is prohibited. This, of course, includes
Now, who could complain about something as fair as that? Well, a significant number of people
complained then and this year, on the 30th anniversary, there are still some complaining. Instead of
heralding the incredible growth of sports in this country, some are whining that Title IX is responsible for
advancing sports opportunities for females at the expense of males.
At the heart of some of these complaints is a three-part test, issued in 1979, that provides guidance for the
application of Title IX to athletics. An institutionís athletic program must meet one of these three tests:
1. Whether the institution provides opportunities for participation in sports for male and female students in
numbers that are substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments; or
2. Whether the institution can show a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is
demonstrably responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the members of the sex that is
underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes; or
3. Whether the institution can show that the interests and abilities of the members of that sex have been
fully and effectively accommodated by the present program.
Title IX does not require identical athletic programs for males and females. Under Title IX, one team is not
compared to the same team in each sport. The total program afforded to male student-athletes and the
total program afforded to female student-athletes need to receive equal treatment. Title IX does not require
that each team receive exactly the same services and supplies. Rather, Title IX requires that the two
programs receive a comparable level of service, facilities, supplies and etc. Variations within the men and
women's program are allowed, as long as the variations are justified on a nondiscriminatory basis.
For example, it is understood that more money will be spent on equipment for a football player than for a
cross country runner. But each individual sports program needs to have equal opportunities to practice
fields and gymnasiums, trainer services and things like summer camps. The amount of money spent on
coaching staffs needs to be comparable, according to the needs of the sport. Again, not as many coaches
are needed for golf or tennis as are needed for football.
In general, Title IX was created more with college sports in mind than high school sports. There is a lot of
language about equal scholarships, travel expenses and training table costs. But it does apply to high
At Ocean City, for example, there are boys and girls teams in cross country, soccer, tennis, basketball
and track. There is a boys baseball team and a girls softball team, a boys football team and a girls field
hockey team, a boys wrestling team and a girls lacrosse team. Both golf and swimming are considered
coed sports, though OCHS, unlike other area schools, has not had a female golfer.
It is a pretty equal sports selection and the overall success of the program indicates that equality is not an
Title IX, like just about every government regulation, is not perfect. There will probably be ongoing
adjustments and improvements. Its opponents, probably believing that conservative Attorney General John
Ashcroft is their best bet at taking the bite out of Title IX, will attack it from many directions the next few
Keep in mind that Title IX also applies to all aspects of education, including admissions, recruitment,
course offerings, counseling and counseling materials, financial assistance, student health, insurance
benefits, housing, marital and parental status of students, harassment, physical education, education
programs and activities, and employment.
But the mediaís focus is on how Title IX effects sports, primarily on the college level, with special
emphasis on the big-money sports. Even in high school, only a few sports bring in any significant amounts
of money to the athletic department. But making a profit does not excuse a sport from its part in the overall
equality of the schoolís athletic program.
In the 30 years since Title IX was enacted, there has been a great change in our expectations of what
women and girls can achieve. More important, females have shown skeptics again and again that they are
fully capable of being involved as successful and active participants in every realm of American life.
Women have entered the medical and legal professions in record numbers and there has been a gigantic
increase in female participation in athletics.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 1971 only 18 percent of all women, compared to 26
percent of all men, had completed four or more years of college. This education gap no longer exists.
Women now make up the majority of students in America's colleges and universities in addition to making
up the majority of recipients of master's degrees. Indeed, the United States has become a world leader in
giving women the opportunity to receive a higher education. And Title IX has been a big reason.
Title IX should be evaluated as a medicine. Sometimes you take an effective prescription for high blood
pressure but it gives you a little headache. Most medicines have side effects. But the opportunities given
to girls to expand their potential and excel in sports has been well worth the little bit of aggravation it has
caused a few athletic directors or coaches.
It is not unfortunate that Title IX has been with us for the past 30 years. It is unfortunate that we needed it.
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