COLLEGE sports have become a major source of revenue and
entertainment in the United States. Public interest in
intercollegiate football and men's basketball has created a huge
industry sponsored by many of the nation's institutions of higher
Hidden in this explosion are the inadequate efforts of our
nation's major colleges and universities to provide athletic
opportunities to women.
In every possible area of comparison, women have been denied any
semblance of equitable treatment. From team sponsorship to athletic
scholarships, coaching salaries, facilities, academic support,
marketing, promotions, and medical care, female athletes have been
given short shrift. This discrimination is illegal.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of Title IX of
the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination
on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving
federal funds, i.e., nearly all institutions of higher learning. In
a current reform movement, college athletics has begun to address
its own gender gap.
Twenty years after its passage, there is still "massive,
blatant, wholesale violation of Title IX," according to Arthur
Bryant, executive director of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.
Recent events, though, presage changes.
In February, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that monetary damages
can be awarded for violations of Title IX. The ruling puts teeth
into the law, which heretofore has been only sporadically enforced.
Title IX suits - or their threat - have focused national attention
on institutions such as the Universities of Oklahoma, New
Hampshire, and New Mexico, Brown University, and Bowdoin and
William and Mary Colleges.
In March, the National Collegiate Athletic Association released
results of its gender-equity survey, documenting the disparity
between men's and women's athletic programs at its member
institutions. While total enrollment of women and men is virtually
equal, male athletes outnumber female athletes by more than two to
one and receive twice as many athletic scholarships as women. Men's
teams get more than three-quarters of overall operating funds and
over 80 percent of recruiting dollars.
Many who read these numbers are pleased to note that women's
scholarships nearly match their participation ratio. However, a
federal judge ruled in 1987 that differences in participation rates
cannot be used to justify differences in scholarship offerings.
Clearly, the courts understand that if more women were offered
athletic scholarships, there would be more women participants.
Another defense proffered for these disparities is the
uniqueness of football in terms of squad size and revenue
generation. In fact, 89 percent of NCAA football teams do not
generate enough revenue to support themselves, much less women's
teams or other men's teams. …