"Title Nine." Sounds like a new novel. Actually it is a law which is
30 years old and is still not being completely enforced. But if it were
a book it would be called, "Women Not in Sports Through the Ages."
In 776 B. C. the first Olympic Games took place in ancient Greece.
They consisted of a footrace run the length of the stadium by men .
Women were not allowed in the stadium. In the year 2000, 10,000
athletes from around the world, nearly half of them women, competed in
the XXVII Modern Olympiad.
In the years between those two events the athletic powers that be - male
- should have figured out that many women are physically strong and
athletic and love sports just as much as their brothers. But they
There were a few brave athletic women. In 1884 women were finally
allowed to compete in the singles at Wimbledon. In 1900 19 women
competed in the Olympic Games in tennis, golf and croquet. In the
1930's Babe Didrickson Zaharias burst on the American athletic scene,
excelling in track, swimming, tennis, baseball and golf. But she was a
Then in 1972, thirty years ago last week, Congress passed Title 9 and
President Nixon signed it. It said nothing about women's rights, but it
would turn the sports world upside down. By now most Americans know
what it says. "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." And did it ever hit the fan!
Women being allowed equality in school sports? Never, said the guys.
To finance women's teams would cause men to lose teams, they said. So
they tried to ignore it.
But some interesting events called public attention to the hassle, like
a tennis game. In 1973 the famous "battle of the sexes" took place,
when Billie Jean King wiped up the tennis court with Bobbie Riggs on
national television. Here in Happy Valley a bunch of newly minted
feminists with our husbands met together to watch that game. The guys
sat on one side and yelled for Bobbie. We sat on the other side and
Girls' teams in high school and college were gradually formed in a few
sports, but they continued to be run like clubs with very little
financial support. Thank goodness for soccer moms. Coaches and
parents furnished transportation, including gas. The girls stayed 4 and
6 to a room to save money. They paid for most of their equipment.
Pat Summit, Tennessee's great women's basketball coach remembers
traveling to games in 15 passenger vans and private cars that often
broke down. Teams had to buy their own uniforms. She put the
controversy in perspective when she joked that the women had to buy
their sports bras. The schools paid for jock straps.
Gradually the "Title 9 babies" grew in numbers and skills and fed the
colleges with experienced players. Women's teams began to demand the
financial equality to which they were legally entitled. After all, when
Nebraska has 201 members on the football team they don't have much
reason to complain about eliminating wrestling.
But despite the progress Donna Lopiano, executive director of the
Women's Sports Foundation, said, "we're not there yet," estimating that
equity is still a decade away. She attributes what she terms slow
change to what she often refers to as "the dinosaur - the ruling
majority at Division I colleges and universities, the white male
Lopiano said there will be substantial progress in the next decade or
two if pressure continues from individual lawsuits, an investigative
press, and the parents of athletes.
But we're making progress. We now have three women Athletic Directors
in Denver. We have superior college women's basketball teams. We
have women winning gold medals in winter and summer Olympics. Remember
the day American women won the World Cup in soccer? And we have the
WNBA which is growing stronger each year -- all thanks to Title 9.
The 30th anniversary was celebrated by women all over America. Think
what our athletic 6 year old daughters have to look forward to.