40 years later, Title IX is still fighting perception it hurt men's sports
Mention Title IX and most people think of its impact on college athletic programs, primarily, say coaches, because it is blamed for cuts in men's sports. Supporters say that's a bum rap.
Say âTitle IXâ â the landmark gender equality legislation marking its 40th anniversary June 23 â and most folks these days will respond, âsports.â
While this âlittleÂ statuteâ â one small provision in an omnibus education bill â actually targetsÂ parity across theÂ entire education landscape, for most people it has become inextricably linked with its impact on school athletic programs.
Thatâs largely because, say many coaches and athletic directors who have weathered these years, Title IX has often been blamed for cuts in menâs programs. But, supporters say, that is a bum rap.
âThere are many myths and preconceptions about Title IX that hinder its effectiveness,â saysÂ Metropolitan State Collegeâs Joan McDermott, in Denver, a rare femaleÂ athletic director at the higher education level and a veteran of theÂ battles over changes required by the law.
âThatâs because when a menâs sportÂ gets dropped, most people say, itâs because of Title IX when thatâs just not true,â she says. âItâs because of budget choices by the administration, so thatâs an ongoing rap that Title IX gets.â
TheÂ Office for Civil Rights of theÂ US Department of Education hasÂ guidelines for compliance with Title IX, the main one of which requiresÂ sports participationÂ that is proportional to the gender balance in the schoolâs population. But according to the American Sports Council (ASC) in Washington,Â a nonprofit coalitionÂ of coaches,Â parents, and athletes,Â Title IXÂ hurts menâs sports, in part due to this requirement.
âWhen schools have too few female athletes (i.e., the percentage of females enrolled exceed the percentage of athletes), theyâre presumed noncompliant. Theyâre then forced to create the illusion of substantial proportionality by denying men the opportunity to participate,â writes ASC advisory board member Karen Owoc, on the nonprofitâs website.
This means, she continues, that many womenâs teams have not been helped, âbut rather, men have been hurt.â
TheÂ Fairness in Sports Foundation site catalogues a long list of menâs programs that have been cut, it states, due to Title IX requirements.
The numbers however, tell aÂ different story. Regarding collegiate sports, TitleÂ IX focuses on access and participation. In a list of FAQâs on its website seeking to refute allegations that Title IX has hurt menâs athletics,Â the NCAA points out that since the law's inception, both male and female participation in college sports have increased.
Just between 2002 and 2011, the NCAA says, the number of men in college sports increasedÂ by 38,482 between 2002 and 2011. During that same period, the number of females went up by less, someÂ 32,662.
The NCAA also points out that nonrevenue menâs sports are often cut to provide more funds for the two big revenue sports, football and basketball. In 2006, for instance, Rutgers University dropped men's tennis, a team with a budget of approximately $175,000. The National Women's Law Center points out that Rutgers spent about $175,000 in the same year on hotel rooms for the football team â for home games.
The biggest ongoing misconception about Title IX is that it's a law against men, says Robert Schneider, author of the textbook, "Ethics of Sport and Athletics: Theories, Issues, and Practice." In fact, he says via e-mail from Turkey, where he isÂ presenting a paper on Title IX at a conference, âit's a law that requires universities to make choices as to the sports they will offer for men and women in a way that allows for equal participation by both men and women.
The law itself, notes Professor Schneider, who teaches sport management at The College at Brockport in New York, âreceives an âA.â Enforcement of the law receives a âC.â And depending on the university, following the letter and spirit of the law ranges from an âAâ to an âF.â â Some universities adhere completely to it, he notes, while âothers make every effort to circumvent it.â
From its inception, opponents such as the late Sen. Jesse Helms, sought to eliminate it. Title IX has fought off attempts to weaken it in the courts, in Congress, and in the executive branch, says Erin Buzuvis, professor of law at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., and co-founder of The Title IX Blog.
âIt endures a constant barrage of misinformation promoting the myth that Title IXâs gains have come at the expense of men,â she notes via e-mail.Â For instance, though menâs athletic opportunities have, like womenâs, steadily increased over the last 40 years, many blame Title IX for the fact that some schools and colleges choose to concentrate menâs athletic opportunities in the large-roster sport of football rather than offer men a more diverse array of opportunities.
Those who have labored in the trenches from the lawâs inception say it has been worth the fight.
âWe used Title IX as a way to push for what we deserved,â says Vicki Staton, the former Washington & Jefferson College head womenâs basketball and volleyball coach, who coached from 1975 to 2003.
In 1975, she was one of the few coaches in western Pennsylvania recruiting at a time when local high schools did not provide for women to play sports. âThere were many nights when I would think to myself âWhat am I doing this for?â â
She says she once asked a local sports reporter, â âWhy donât you cover our team?â and his response was âCâmon, itâs womenâs sports.â â Ten years later, she says, âhis daughter attended my youth basketball camp.â
âItâs been a long process, she says, âbut we have always just been fighting for a chance to participate and showcase the athletic skills young women possess.Â Without Title IX, I donât think that would have ever been possible.â
Education about the law is the ball that was dropped from the start, saysÂ Ellen J. Staurowsky,Â a professorÂ of Sport Management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who co-authored a 2010-11 study of some 1,100 coaches and athletic directors to determine their knowledgeÂ of Title IX.
This was the first study of its kind, she points out, and notes that âwe found that there was very little actual grasp of the specific requirements of the law.âÂ One of the most important requirementsÂ â a Title IX coordinatorÂ at every school toÂ facilitate programs for every constituency â âwas simply never done,â she says, adding, âand soÂ the kind of mass education that was supposed to happen around Title IXÂ never took place.â
It is not enough for the DOEâs Office for Civil RightsÂ to say schools do not have to cut menâs sports to be in compliance with the law, she says, adding, âwhile that is true, that is not sufficient to get people to believe otherwise.â
The proof is in the numbers, she says.
In a typical elite Division I school, some 80 percent of all sports funds go to two menâs sports, football and basketball.Â On the other hand, she notes that at a typical Division 3Â school, 70 percentÂ of money for menâs sports goes to a wide array, with only 30 percent spent on those two sports.
âThose areÂ administration decisions, not Title IX,â she says, so the sooner âweÂ begin to have a more accurate discussion about Title IX, the healthier it will be for the next generation.âÂ