Sports is a powerful force in today’s
society. People of all ages, both male
and female watch and participate in various different sports, with participation
numbers increasing. It would seem typical and fair that participation in any sport
one would choose, without the fear of being discriminated based on gender,
would be acceptable and encouraged. However, it took until 1972 for Congress to
pass the Education Amendments of 1972, which included Title IX. Title IX was
created in an attempt to eliminate discrimination against women at any
institution or organization that receives funds from the Federal government. Since
its introduction in 1972, Title IX has increased the opportunities for women to
have the ability to partake in college sports programs while having a minimal
impact on men’s sports programs.
Title IX states that “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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial
assistance.” (Title 20 U.S.C.).
This law requires that all
activities colleges and universities offer, must be offered without regard to
the gender of the potential participant. It is fair to suggest that sport have
long been dominated by men. Historically men have had a higher interest in
sports compared to females and there is plenty of data of to support this.
According to the International Olympic Committee, during the 2014 Winter
Olympic Games, 59.7% of the participants were male compared to the 40.3% of
females. The International Olympic Committee Executive Board is made up of
73.3% of males and 26.7% of females. The International Federation Executive
Board is made up of staggering 86% of
males members and only 14% women. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview
Study reports that 48.4% of 18-24 year old males engage in the recommended
amounts of physical activity compared to 36.8% of females. The overall data,
for all ages combined states that 35.7% of males and 30.4% of engage in the recommended
amounts. Since 1972 the number of female athletes at NCAA schools has increased
from less than 30,000 to over 193,000, however women still have over 60,000 fewer
participation opportunities than their male counterparts. Despite the meteoric
raise in participation and opportunities for females, there is still some way
to go before there is true equality.
In order to test for equality and
be able to enforce Title IX, there was three tests created in a bid to measure compliance.
The three tests are:
Ensuring that opportunities for men and women are substantially
proportionate to enrollment by gender.
Offering sports that fully and effectively satisfies the interests and
abilities of female students.
Showing a history and continuing practice of expanding the sports
programs for women.
It is not mandated that schools
have to meet all three tests, however according to the Education Department,
they must meet at least one of the three. These three tests are absolute key to
the success of Title IX and are what complaints and lawsuits are judged on.
The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta,
Georgia, give an insight to the influence Title IX has had on women’s
sports. The United States won a total of
forty-four gold medals, nineteen of which were won by female athletes. Female Olympic
Athletes such as Amy Van Dyken (Born 1972, swimmer, total of 20 Olympic medals),
Lisa Leslie (Born 1972, Basketball, total of 8 Olympic medals), and legendary
US Women’s soccer National Team player Mia Hamm (Born 1972, soccer, total of 7
Olympic medals, two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion) have all directly benefited
from Title IX. The opportunities that would have been available for them to get
involved in their chosen sport was much greater than if they were born a generation
earlier. This suggests that thanks to Title IX, they were given the chance to
continue to develop their talents which helped mold them into incredible athletes.
The success of Title IX can also be
measured by the increased number of sports programs available for female
athletes across the country. According to data from the National Federation of
State High School Associations, between 1972 and 2011, the number of girls
competing in high school sports increased from under 295,000 to nearly 3.2
million. And it is not only at the high school level more females are participating
in sports. According to NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report,
Student-Athlete Participation – 1981-82 — 2010-11, the number of female
athletes at NCAA schools has increased from less than 30,000 to over 193,000
Despite the increase in female participation
Critics of Title IX contend that the law is fundamentally unfair and is
damaging men’s sports. The basis of this
complaint is the first test of compliance with Title IX. Colleges and universityies meet this test by
“ensuring that opportunities for men and women are substantially
proportionate to enrollment by gender.” (Seattle Times). This is called the proportionality
requirement. Is it fair to determine the
number of athletic opportunities by enrollment of each gender? Do men and women have the same interest and
desire to participate in sports during college?
Many critics say no and according to current statistics they are
right. Male high school students
participate in organized athletics at the rate of 1 in 2, while female high
school students participate at the rate of 1 in 3. This suggest that a higher percentage of men
than women desire to participate in sports.
As one commentator put it “Men are more likely to be interested in
playing sports than women, they say, and depriving men of opportunities just to
meet proportitonality guidelines is, on it’s face, discriminatory.”
In the landmark case involving
Title IX Brown University was found to not be in compliance with the
proportionality test. Brown had an equal
number of athletic programs for women and men, but had more male athletes. Judge Pettine ruled in favor of women
athletes because there were more male athletes than female athletes. Brown University argued that “men and
women have different levels of athletic interest, so schools cannot hope to
have as many female athletes as males.” (Baker) They were joined by several national
educational groups in filing briefs against the ruling. “‘Judge Pettine’s ruling, if it stands,
would force Brown to limit the number of opportunities for male athletes to
compete because existing opportunities for women are going unfilled,’ Brown
executive vice president Robert Reichley said.
‘That’s a quota system; we don’t believe that’s what congress
intended.'” (The Associated Press).
The judge in his ruling gave three alternatives for Brown to correct the
problem. He said, “It may eliminate
the athletic program altogether, it may elevate or create the requisite number
of women’s positions, it may demote or eliminate the requisite number of men’s
positions or it may implement a combination of these remedies” (Baker). This ruling has had the effect of requiring
colleges to limit or reduce the number of athletic opportunities for men, and
this is why Title IX is under fire by it’s critics. Even critics of Title IX concede that the
purpose and intent of the law is worthy, “‘I think almost everybody in
higher education believes the goal of Title IX is worthy,’ says James C.
Garland, Miami’s president. ‘The
controversy is whether the end justifies the means, and that’s the battleground
where this is being fought.'” (Suggs).
Proportionality has also led to
talk of quotas. The Education Department
stated that to be in compliance with Title IX, you only needed to meet one of
the three tests. In Brown the court
looked at proportionality as the deciding factor, even though Brown had one of
the most equal sports programs in the country.
This reliance on proportionality sets a quota for the number of women
athletes required, or for the maximum number of male athletes permited for the
school to be in compliance with the law.
If the level of interest in sports was equal between men and women this
would not be a problem. The critics of
Title IX contend that this is not so, and that the level of interest is
actually higher in men than in women.
This line of reasoning supports the claim that Title IX is hurting men’s
sports. If this is the case, then the
proportionality test is preventing athletic departments across the country from
finding the natural equilibrium between athletic opportunities for men and
Another issue that the critics of
Title IX raise is the difference in the size of the different athletic
programs, specifically football.
Football is the largest and the most profitable athletic program in the
entire country, and it happens to be the domain of men. Critics have stated that “If football
were eliminated, every school would be in compliance (with Title
IX).” Football programs often have
139 players on the sidelines for home games.
Compare that with one of the largest women’s athletic programs, crew,
which consists of about 50 participants.
This disparity in program size has led to the elimination of some men’s
programs by colleges seeking to meet proportionality requirements. Critics of Title IX have asked for football
to be excluded from Title IX, but proponents of the law claim that if football
programs weren’t wasteful, schools would not have to eliminate men’s
programs. In return, critics of the law
point out that the average profit of a division I football program is over $3 million,
and helps fund many of the other athletic programs that allow women to
participate in athletics. This dispute
is not finished and will likely heat up in the future.
In the 27 years since Title IX was
enacted, it has helped countless women to participate in sports. The number of college women’s sports programs
has increased dramatically, as has the percentage of women who participate in
sports while in high school. Women in
sports get more recognition than ever before, yet few colleges are in total
compliance with the law. This may be
because of money or it may be because many people believe the method of
determining compliance is wrong, but the fact that women have benefited from
Title IX remains. Yes, some men’s sports
programs have been hurt or eliminated in attempts to comply with this law. But men’s sports in whole is healthy and alive. Football and basketball will always be here
because of the money they generate for the colleges. It is the less glamorous and profitable men’s
sports like wrestling, golf, and swimming that have suffered. But this suffering is small compared to the overall
state of men’s sports and the dramatic increase in women’s sports. Title IX has been a success so far by
increasing opportunities for female athletes to compete in college
athletics. This success has not been
hampered by the minimal damage to men’s sports, only time will tell if this remains
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Contend — Education Dept. Defends Its Enforcement.” The Seattle Times. May 10, 1995.
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Title IX Battle.” The News
Tribune> June 27, 1995.
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University Must Provide More Sports Opportunities.” Seattle Post Intelligencer. March 30, 1995.
Baker, Frank. The Associated Press. “Gender – Equity Debate Heating up on
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Title 20. United States Code. Section 1681
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