of the Pocket
IX's Other Side
Jason Oraker Yale Daily News
There is absolutely no
question that, in its 30-year existence, Title IX legislation
has considerably advanced women's intercollegiate athletics.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was initially
established as an anti-discrimination measure guaranteeing
that no one would be excluded from federally assisted programs
or activities on account of gender.
Whereas a mere 30,000 women were participating in
intercollegiate athletics in 1972, before Title IX, that
number has grown to more than 160,000 at present, according to
a report by the United States General Accounting Office.
In the last 20 years alone, the same report said female
intercollegiate athletic participation has increased by more
than 80 percent, with a 66 percent increase in female athletic
teams. Not only are women being offered more opportunities to
participate, but they are now being actively recruited to
participate at a level commensurate with that of their male
counterparts. Moreover, with the emergence of popular female
sports icons in multiple sports -- Michelle Kwan and Sarah
Hughes in figure skating, Mia Hamm in soccer and Lisa Leslie
in basketball -- coupled with the constant growth of female
youth sports programs, Title IX has served a significant
purpose for women in athletics.
But as Title IX passes through its 30th year of existence, it
is time to examine the other side of the equal opportunity
argument that this legislation supposedly promotes. During the
same time frame in which such strides have been made in
women's athletics, men's athletics programs generally have
suffered. More than 400 men's athletics teams -- the majority
being swimming and wrestling -- have been eliminated as a
result of Title IX's substantial proportionality requirement,
as colleges are finding it easier and legally safer to
discontinue certain men's athletic teams rather than create
new women's programs. This disturbing trend ultimately runs
counter to Title IX's original purpose.
The legislative history of this measure indicates that this
was clearly not designed as a quota system, predicated on
statistical balancing, but was an effort to bring more
athletic opportunities to females.
Sadly, through controversial litigation over the last 12
years, Title IX's original intention has been lost. For the
most part, appellate courts nationwide have adopted
substantial proportionality -- which says that the ratio of
female to male varsity athletes must closely mirror the ratio
of female to male undergraduates students -- as the only Title
IX enforcement mechanism.
Thus, for a budget-strapped athletic director managing an
institution's Title IX compliance, it is much easier to cut a
minor men's sport than to add more women's sports in an effort
to maximize proportionality. Male wrestling and swimming teams
are being cut left and right and, though the affected athletes
have sometimes challenged such results with litigation of
their own, to date every case has lost in the court room.
What proponents of proportionality fail to realize is that the
numbers do not add up. Nationally, according to a 1995 survey
by the National Federation of State High School Associations,
females make up 39 percent of the high school athletic
population and 38 percent in college -- a percentage that, by
the way, has not changed in 24 years.
For an institution whose student body is 50 percent women,
substantial proportionality says that 50 percent of all
varsity athletic opportunities should go to women. In light of
the 38 percent national average, this means offering women a
94 percent greater chance to participate in athletics than
men. At many schools, this has translated to coaches of men's
teams barring walk-ons, cutting offered scholarships, or
disbanding teams altogether, while coaches of women's athletic
teams may struggle to fill their rosters.
Are we trying to field a successful team or placate
mediocrity? When taking proportionality to this extent, that
is the question we must ask.
The only way substantial proportionality is valid, therefore,
is if an equal percentage of male and female students are
actually able and willing to participate in athletics. The
current percentages -- which have not changed since 1979 --
indicate this is not the case.
It is unclear how many students would actually take advantage
of increased athletic opportunities if such were offered, but
intramural program participation may shed some light on the
subject. According to a legal brief for Brown University in
the marquee litigation for substantial proportionality, there
is a four-to-one male-female ratio in collegiate intramural
activity. Obviously, these programs offer athletic
opportunities to anyone, regardless of previous experience,
and without the added pressures of fulfilling scholarships,
missing classes, and traveling widely through the country.
Given the aforementioned differences between intramural and
varsity athletics, the substantial proportionality standard in
varsity athletics still ignores the reality of how many males
and females in general are interested in athletics.
The bottom line here is that, at every level, women are not as
interested in athletics as men are, and Title IX, as the
courts now interpret it, is an over-inclusive,
one-size-fits-all measure treating male and female athletic
interest as if it were equal. Well, it's not.
To truly reach equal protection as guaranteed by the 14th
Amendment, there should be a form of proportionality that
represents relative interest between sexes at each university.
This will ensure that each collegiate athletic department
fully and effectively accommodates the relative interests and
abilities of each gender.
By meeting such interests there would be no danger of allowing
courts to violate what Title IX clearly prescribes -- equal
treatment. Until courts re-evaluate the situation, however,
there will continue to be disparate treatment of male and
female athletes, ultimately effecting the continued
elimination of minor men's teams.
The NCAA and the courts in general need to take a hard look at
Title IX because opportunity, as interpreted presently under
the legislation, does not mean equality.
the College Sports Council website. www.savingsports.org