Title IX: The
Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Title IX: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Since the 1972 conception
of Title IX of the Education Amendments, the number of women participating in
intercollegiate athletics has increased five-fold, from fewer than 30,000, to
more 150,000 in 2001. However, more than
400 men’s athletics teams have been dismantled since Title IX, the law
forbidding sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds, became
law. Some would say this is due, in
part, to Title IX enforcement standards like proportionality. Proportionality
requires that an institution’s athletic population must be of an equal ratio to
its general student body. Among some of
the 400-plus teams dismantled by Title IX are several former
The debate over Title IX is a complex one, with many sides relentlessly attacking each other’s approaches regarding the law. The Title IX advocates, largely comprised of women’s organizations such as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), take the approach that the law is the major reason women have achieved somewhat equal opportunities in athletics. The NWLC contends that abolishing Title IX would undo years of progress so far achieved. In sharp contrast with the Title IX advocates are the Title IX opponents, who are largely comprised of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), along with former coaches and athletes of programs adversely affected by Title IX. This camp also houses those who believe Title IX simply does not work and individuals who believe the law is now, 30-plus years later, out of date. Richard Epstein argues that “women no longer need Title IX to be heard loud and clear” thanks to changes in cultural and social norms (35). The final two approaches fall between the Title IX advocates and the Title IX opponents—the Title IX proportionality reformers and the Title IX enforcement reformers. Title IX proportionality reformers address the proportionality standards of Title IX, attacking “unfair” tests which demand quotas for female athletic participation. The NWCA also is one of the strongest forces in this camp along with some coaches, athletic directors, and once again, adversely affected former male athletes. Ruth Conniff includes, in this approach, “girls of the post-Title IX generation, who feel pangs of guilt when Title IX is blamed for the elimination of men’s sports” (22). The Title IX enforcement reformers argue that universities need more meaningful ways to show compliance than proportionality such as surveys of interest. This group is composed of some athletic directors, coaches, and former male athletes.
Title IX advocates refuse to give any ground when questions arise about what to do with Title IX. Doing so, they believe, could unravel the years of forward progress towards women’s equality which Title IX has accomplished in its 31-year history. Title IX advocates value equality which they designate as proportionate numbers of male and female athletes. Title IX advocates unanimously credit Title IX for providing the equality which women have enjoyed over recent years. However, they say that female athletes are still being treated unfairly compared to their male counterparts and are underrepresented in the world of intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics. Peg Bradley-Doppes, a strong Title IX advocate, supplies the strong advocacy belief that “men still receive more opportunity to participate in athletics” (B7). According to Bradley-Doppes women account for more than half of the student body at Division I universities, yet receive only 43 percent of athletics-scholarship dollars, 36 percent of athletics operating budgets, and 32 percent of recruiting budgets (B7).
Title IX advocates also say Title IX has not adversely affected men’s sports in an attempt for equality. Bradley-Doppes points out that between 1981 and 1998, 36 additional NCAA Division I men’s teams were formed (B7). Another common belief among Title IX advocates is that Title IX is not the reason men’s athletic teams are dropped. In a report from the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, according to Bradley-Doppes, “Neither Title IX nor its policies, and particularly the three-part, explicitly or in practice require the discontinuation of men’s teams…as long as a school provides equal participation opportunities to men and women” (B7). The Women’s Sports Foundation, according to Ruth Coniff, says that changing Title IX could result in a loss of 300,000 participation opportunities for women along with a loss of 100 million dollars in athletics scholarships (19). This would be a disaster for women’s athletics if predictions regarding possible repercussions of changing Title IX held true. Title IX advocates also see a strong correlation between the rise in women’s athletic publicity and Title IX. According to a Christian Science Monitor editorial, Title IX is the main reason for the rise of women’s athletics “providing for well publicized events like the NCAA Women’s Basketball Finals and women’s athletics in general” (20). Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, as reported by Jonathan Salant of the Associated Press, reasons “Title IX is not broken, and it does not need to be fixed” (Sports 1).
opponents defend their claims as fiercely as the Title IX advocates. Although Title IX opponents acknowledge the
good intent of Title IX, they feel strongly that opportunities for women’s
athletic participation should not come at the expense of men. They also value equality, but take a
different stand on what they believe equality is: every willing participant
having the chance to play. Title IX
opponents say the law has been unjustly interpreted over the past 20
years. J. Robinson believes “feminist
radicals have hijacked the current interpretation” of the law, placing
thousands of prospective male athletes on the chopping block (B7). Robinson points to specific language in the
law that says it should not be interpreted to require an institution to provide
special treatment in cases where imbalances exist between male and female
athletic programs (B7). Epstein
illustrates the popular Title IX opponent belief that “instead of maximizing
total participation regardless of sex, Title IX is committed to minimizing the
difference in participation by sex” (35).
This means taking away opportunities for men. Opponents also say that Title IX “instantly
creates male queues and female shortages,” according to Epstein (35). This
means there are more males searching for a chance to participate in athletics
than females are currently able to fill, leaving many male athletes high and
dry. Title IX opponents are also
skeptical about whether the law was responsible at all for the recent rise in
women’s athletics. Epstein
proportionality reformers take a less extreme approach to handling the Title IX
woes plaguing athletic departments and athletes nation-wide. They applaud the effects of Title IX
(increased female participation), but believe changes must be made in the
proportionality standards which are used to gauge Title IX compliance. Title IX proportionality
reformers value not equal numbers of participants, but providing enough
opportunities for men to compete.
According to Charles M. Neinas, it is obvious
that “male students are more likely to participate in a sport… than female
students” (B8). Neinas
points out that this is also the case in intramural and club sports (B8). It is on these premises that proportionality
reformers seek to alter proportionality standards which keep many men off the
playing field. University of Maryland
Athletic Director Deborah Yow, according to Michelle R. Davis, has suggested
implementing a 50-50 athletic ratio, regardless of the general student body’s
ratio, while providing universities with a five- percent cushion (22). Another Title IX proportionality reformer
idea includes counting only students of traditional college age (18-23) in
determining an institution’s proportions of men to women.
Title IX enforcement
reformers say universities need more meaningful ways to show compliance than
proportionality. They value having other
legitimate means of proving
Title IX compliance, that are as bulletproof as
proportionality. Currently there are
three means of demonstrating Title IX compliance, but “proportionality is currently the only
method impervious to legal challenges” (
Finding a solution for Title IX, if one is needed, is a complex dilemma with four sides boldly holding to their ideals. Title IX advocates argue that any fundamental changes in Title IX, or its enforcement standards, would have disastrous effects on women’s athletics, which they believe are still far inferior to men’s athletics. On the other hand, Title IX opponents argue that Title IX is outdated and has been boldly misconstrued and misinterpreted to work against male athletes, furnishing female athletes opportunities at the expense of men. Another approach, the Title IX proportionality reformers, believe the Title IX woes experienced by men’s athletics can be solved by changing the fundamental enforcement standard of proportionality while, at the same time, preserving opportunities Title IX has afforded women. The final approach to the debate over Title IX is the Title IX enforcement reformers. This group believes the solution is to provide schools and universities more concrete methods, other than proportionality, to show Title IX compliance. With a recent commission ruling which recommends to the Bush administration no changes in current Title IX regulations or enforcement, the debate over Title IX and its enforcement will continue to stir an already tumultuous pot. And with the continuing debate over Title IX, disbanded CSU sports programs will likely remain only as images of the gloried days past.
Coniff, Ruth. “Title IX: Political Football.” Nation Mar. 2003: 19.
Michelle R. “Title IX Panel Contemplates Easing Proportionality Test.” Education
Epstein, Richard A. “Just scrap Title IX.” National Law Journal 24 (2002): 35
Gable, Dan. “What to do with Title IX.” Sporting News Feb. 2003: 7.
Robinson, J., Peg Bradley-Doppes,
Charles M. Neinas, John R. Thelin,
Christine A. Plonsky, and Michael Messner. “Gender
Equity in College Sports: 6 Views.” Chronicle
of Higher Education
Salant, Jonathan D. “NCAA president opposes changes to Title IX
“Women and sports.” Christian Science Monitor Apr. 1995: 20.