Magazine article USA TODAY

The Ongoing Controversy over Title IX

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Ongoing Controversy over Title IX

Article excerpt

"Without Title IX and the intervention of the Federal government, hundreds of thousands of females now actively involved in sports would still be on the sidelines as spectators and male ego enhancers."

IN THE CONTINUING EUPHORIA following the U.S. women's soccer team's World Cup victory, a number of players and sports commentators have noted that the ascendancy of women's athletics would not have been possible without the benefit of Title IX. They are certainly correct. Like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, intervention on the part of the Federal government in the form of Title IX has positively affected the lives of millions of people.

Title IX is a key component of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 signed into law by Pres. Richard Nixon. This provision stated that all schools receiving Federal funds must provide equal opportunity for males and females. From the outset, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education took the position that if any program was receiving Federal money, the entire school must comply with Title IX standards. Opponents argued that only those programs specifically receiving funds were bound by the new law. Since no athletic departments per se at the high school or college level were recipients of Federal dollars, Title IX did not apply to them, argued the Reagan Administration, which waged a vigorous campaign to undermine the law.

Sport economist Andrew Zimbalist notes that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) attempted to derail Title IX from the start. In 1974, it asked the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to lobby for an exclusion of athletics from the new law. That same year, it campaigned in support of the Tower Amendment, which would have exempted men's football and basketball (the "revenue" sports) from Title IX coverage. Two years later, it challenged the constitutionality of the gender equity provision in the courts and lost.

In a 1984 case (Grove City College v. Bell), the Supreme Court sided with the opponents of Title IX and ruled that only those programs receiving Federal funds must comply with the statute. Within a year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights suspended or narrowed more than 800 investigations involving collegiate athletics--cases characterized by one attorney wherein "discrimination is so apparent, so blatant."

Overriding Pres. Ronald Reagan's veto in March, 1988, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, legislation that reinstated the original intent of Title IX. Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled that schools intentionally violating this law could be sued for financial damages, all but forcing institutions to be more sensitive to its provisions. In retrospect, it is possible to see the irony of one aspect of Title IX's political and social history. The primary beneficiaries of this law have been the daughters of white, middle-class America (consider the racial composition of the U.S. women's soccer team), the group primarily responsible for bringing Reagan to power.

The impact of Title IX was immediate and staggering. In 1961, nine states prohibited interscholastic sports for females. On the eve of Title IX in 1971, a mere 7.5% of the almost 4,000,000 high school student-athletes were girls. By 1980, just over 33% of more than 5,250,000 interscholastic athletes were female. During the 1996-97 academic year, 40% of over 6,100,000 high school athletes were girls.

Prior to the passage of Title IX, women comprised 15% of college athletes, but received two percent of the total athletic budget. While male teams often traveled via first-class accommodations paid for by the athletic department, women's teams were forced to make expenses by way of bake sales, car washes, and raffles. In 1997-98, women accounted for 40% of student-athletes at Division I institutions and received 40% of athletic scholarships, up from 26% in 1996-97. …

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