Changing the Game Plan: A Participation Model of College Sports

By Porto, Brian L. | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Changing the Game Plan: A Participation Model of College Sports


Porto, Brian L., Phi Kappa Phi Forum


THE FIRST TITLE IX REVOLUTION

Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, helped to spawn and to foster a social revolution in the United States during the past generation. Enacted in 1972, Title IX states:

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

   No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be
   excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
   subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity
   receiving Federal financial assistance....

The revolution that Title IX inspired and advanced resulted in an exponential increase in participation by women in all facets of higher education. Perhaps the best evidence of this is enrollment figures; at my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island, more than 55 percent of the undergraduates in 2003-2004 were women. In my home state, the University of Vermont had an undergraduate student body that was 56 percent female in 2003-2004, and next door in New Hampshire, the undergraduate population at the University of New Hampshire during that year was more than 57 percent female.

Athletics, though, is the aspect of college life in which the impact of Title IX is most visible. In 1972, when I was an undergraduate, fewer than 30,000 women played sports sponsored by their colleges, whereas 170,000 men did so. By 2003-04, 202,500 women (and 291,500 men) played sports sponsored by their colleges; women were 41 percent of the varsity college athletes in the United States, an increase of more than 400 percent since 1971.

Still, the revolution was felt far beyond the athletics fields, including in graduate and professional schools. In 1994 women received 38 percent of the MD degrees awarded in the United States, as compared with only 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of the JD degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972; and 44 percent of the PhD degrees awarded to U.S. citizens, up from 25 percent in 1972. I experienced this revolution directly. The PhD program in political science that I entered in 1974 had only one female among thirty graduate students, whereas my first-year law-school class at Indiana University ten autumns later was approximately 40 percent female.

Nobody embodies the changes wrought by Title IX better than Dot Richardson, the shortstop on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in softball at the 1996 Olympics. Thanks to Title IX and the social change surrounding it, Dot Richardson attended UCLA on an athletics scholarship and then graduated from medical school at the University of Louisville. These opportunities were unavailable to her mother's generation and even to women who were just a few years older than she.

But the social revolution of which Title IX has been a major part is incomplete. To be sure, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member colleges now offer an average of 8.32 women's teams, up from 2 per college in 1972 and 5.6 per college in 1978. Nevertheless, in 2004 only 44 percent of the coaches of women's college teams were women, whereas in 1972 women coached more than 90 percent of women's college teams. In other words, the enormous gains that female undergraduates have made in access to opportunities in athletics as a result of Title IX have been offset to some extent by diminished access to college-coaching positions, which are still dominated by men, even in women's sports. Indeed, men coach more than half of the women's college teams, but women coach less than two percent of the men's college teams nationwide.

Disparities also remain between coaches of men's teams and coaches of women's teams; the latter, of course, are more likely than the former to be women. In the spring of 2004, the California Higher Education Commission reported that the average salary for head coaches of men's teams at public colleges in that state was $63,321, while the comparable figure for head coaches of women's teams was $49,307. …

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