Online Master’s in Athletic Administration

A Breakdown Of Title IX In Interscholastic Sports

Title IX was originally written to ensure gender equality of employment opportunities in federally funded educational institutions, but it has also had profound and unforeseen impacts on high school and college sports programs and funding across America.

Title IX

Creation of Title IX

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color or religion in numerous fields and, in the area of employment, it prohibited sex discrimination. In 1967 President Lyndon Johnson was persuaded by the National Organization of Women (NOW) to include women in his planned executive orders to clarify the Civil Rights Act. Consequently, Executive Order 11357 required all institutions receiving federal funding and or contracts to end gender discrimination in the hiring and employment of staff.

Two years later, Bernice Sandler was one of the first to use this executive order to fight the University of Maryland when her job was threatened. Using statistical data concerning the university, she proved that male employment had risen sharply as males replaced qualified females in the university work place.

Encouraged by the Department of Labor’s Office for Federal Fair Contracts Compliance, she lodged a formal complaint and backed her case by proving inequalities in pay, rank and admissions. With the help of NOW, Sandler broadened her case to include 269 complaints against many colleges and universities.

In 1970, Sandler joined the Subcommittee on Higher Education, which was part of the Education and Labor Committee. It was during these congressional hearings that Sandler and Edith Green put forward Title IX, which had been drafted earlier by Representative Patsy Mink with input from Representative Edith Green, who headed the Subcommittee. The Congressional hearings made very little mention of athletics. The focus and wording of Title IX was predominantly concerned with equal opportunity employment in federally funded institutions. During the hearings, Title IX gained wide spread media attention and general public support.

Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, who introduced Title IX to Congress and sponsored it in the Senate, said that Title IX was an important first step in the effort to provide the women of America something that is rightfully theirs, namely an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop their skills, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work.

In 1972, when President Nixon signed the bill into law, he talked about the desegregation of buses. He was, perhaps, unaware of the huge increase in access to all areas of education, which the new law would generate.


Implementation — The Three-Part Test

In the world of legislation, the wording of Title IX is noticeably brief. In order to formulate regulations its language needed to be clarified. President Nixon ordered the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) to carry out the formulations necessary to implement the law.

HEW instigated three levels or prongs of compliance. A federally funded institution could use any one to satisfy compliance with Title IX. In short these are:

1. Proportionality is satisfied when the opportunities provided for participation are proportionate to the gender distribution of the student body.

2. Expansion of athletic opportunities is demonstrated when an institution has a history and practice of expanding the athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex (typically female).

3. Accommodation of the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex, even if there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.


Impact of Title IX

Many schools strive to achieve compliance through the first prong, which often entails cutting men’s programs, but equity is only one possibility for compliance. Schools can provide evidence that they are trying to achieve parity in participation, opportunity and sport funding. It is this cutting of funding to male dominated athletics and sports that has created the greatest controversy surrounding Title IX.

The College Sports Council has stated, “Nationwide, there are currently 1.3 million more boys participating in high school sports than girls. Using a gender quota to enforce Title IX in high school sports would put those young athletes at risk of losing their opportunity to play.” Whereas, following a policy of gender discrimination will put nearly as many girls at risk of never having the opportunity to even start playing a sport. In fact the National Federation of State High School Associations states that, “Female students received 1.3 million fewer opportunities to participate in high school athletics than their male peers in 2006-2007.”

It can also be argued that since the funding ‘pie’ is a limited resource, it has to be sliced and shared equally among the whole student body, even if this entails not following a precedent of apportioning the lion’s share to historically male dominated sports.

While Title IX has had some effect on men’s sports its greatest impact, by far, is the increase in participation by women and girls in athletics. This is demonstrated in the following statement by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education:

“In 1971, less than 295,000 girls took part in high school athletics, accounting for only 7% of all high school athletes; in 2001, that number rose dramatically to 2.8 million, or 41.5% of all high school athletes.”

In 1971-1972, there were some 29,972 females taking part in college athletics. This rose to 166,728 females in 2007-2008, a 456% increase.  These statistics show that Title IX has had an undeniably positive impact on the participation rates of females in athletics.

Furthermore, research prompted by the controversy surrounding Title IX has shown that an increase of approximately 20% in women’s education and a 40% rise in employment for 25 to 34 year old females can be attributed to changes brought about by Title IX. This demonstrates the long-term benefits in education and employment that can be found by participating in athletics, lifelong benefits that should be available to all.



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