Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
Title IX Under Attack
February 14, 2003
Here we go again. Now the Bush Administration is starting to chip away
at Title IX. Two steps forward, one step back.
The effort to keep women out of organized sports has been a combination
of culture and money. After all, when basketball was born the phrase,
"gender equity" didn't exist. We weren't even allowed to vote, let
And then in 1972 Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments,
which read, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex,
be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity
receiving federal financial assistance."
Civil rights laws have historically been a powerful mechanism for
effecting social change in the United States. Title IX was modeled on
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited discrimination
on the basis of race, color, and national origin. It added women
seeking an education to the list of those who could not be discriminated
Title IX is most famous for the way it has encouraged women's organized
sports, but it also gave women a big boost In the intellectual field.
Between 1972 and 1994, the percentage of total medical degrees going to
women went from 9% to 38%. Dental degrees for women went from 1% to
38%. Law degrees for women jumped from 7% to 43%, and doctoral degrees
went from 25% to 44%.
The big jump in numbers has been in athletic programs. Before the
measure was passed, less than 30,000 women competed in college sports.
Today more than five times that many women are involved in college
athletics and there has been a huge increase in the number of females
playing high school sports. Women's professional athletics thriving,
notably in basketball and soccer. I even got my Colorado "C" seventy
The athletic departments of colleges and universities were slow to
comply, but when they finally did, the coaches of men's teams rose up in
protest. The men say that gain has been made at the expense of men's
programs such as wrestling and swimming.
Women are not forcing the curtailment of men's teams. It is the failure
of the imagination and commitment by many universities, and an
unwillingness to confront the glamour and profit of football.
The attack on Title IX is not so much a gender issue as a defense of
football's privileges. Football continues to take the major part of
schools' athletic budget, even though it is not always profitable. It
is hard to understand why universities need 85 football players on
scholarship when NFL teams limit rosters to 53. According to Andrew
Zimbalist, a reduction in 25 football scholarships would save $800,000,
enough to pay for wrestling and another sport in any school.
The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics was appointed last June by
Education Secretary Ron Paige. Last week, after two days of wrangling,
it approved some changes in the way schools are judged for compliance.
These recommendations which were sent to Secretary Paige, who will make
the final decision, could cause major losses of opportunities for
women and girls in sports.
While no one denies that some changes may be needed, women's groups
spoke out strongly against the recommendations of this committee.
Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center
said, "While some have characterized the Title IX changes as minor and
moderate, their true impact would be to devastate women's and girls'
opportunities to participate in athletics and receive scholarships."
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation called the
proposed changes a "stealth attack" on Title IX.
But Geno Auriemma, coach of the UConn women's basketball team which just
set a recrd by winning its 61st game in a row, gets the final word.
"Why would you want to mess with anything that can be this good?"