T Is For Title IX: The History, The Myth, The Reality

I’ve said it a million times in a million different ways: sport isn’t just about sport, but about learning the intangibles that will benefit its participants for the remainder of their lives. Title IX enabled a whole new segment of our society to experience the joy of athletics… check out this post to learn more about what Title IX was intended to do and if it’s accomplished its mission.

The history. I was at a conference a few years ago and learned that Title IX isn’t just a sports amendment…all I’d ever heard about it was in relation to gender equity for collegiate athletes. In reality, the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational institution that receives federal money…from kindergarten to university. Apparently, back in the day, schools would favor men in admissions policies, recruitment strategies, and financial aid packages. That would clearly limit women’s access to education. Title IX came about in 1972 to alleviate this problem. It turns out that equity in athletics was a happy by-product of a much broader law.

The myth. There are a lot of them so I won’t talk about them all, but I did want to hit a couple of them. The first is “we don’t need Title IX anymore, everything’s all good.” While things are most certainly better than they were before the amendment, we’ve still got a long way to go. In terms of athletics, women receive less in scholarship money and less in opportunities to compete…so we still need folks to be mandated toward equity. Secondly, a prevalent myth is “women’s sports are causing men’s sports to be cut.” Schools aren’t cutting men’s sports because of women’s athletics…they’re cutting them because that’s the choice they’ve made. Participation in men’s sports is growing. Administrators have decided to cut some sports (notably men’s track and wrestling) to bolster financial support of more popular sports.

The reality. Check out these numbers from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Equity Research Center:

  • Male athletes still receive 55% of college athletic scholarship dollars;
  • Women’s teams receive only 38% of college sport operating dollars and 33% of college athletic team recruitment spending.

All is not lost though! Check out some of the great things that have happened since Title IX was enacted:

  • In 1995, women made up 37 percent of athletes in college, compared to 15 percent in 1972;
  • In 1996, girls constituted 39 percent of high school athletes, compared to 7.5 percent in 1971;
  • In 1994, women received 38 percent of medical degrees, compared with 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of law degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972; and 44 percent of all doctoral degrees, compared to 25 percent in 1977.

I believe athletics has made me a better person and I can’t imagine my life without sports. Title IX is important to me because I believe in the benefits of sport…and I want to make sure everyone has as level a playing field as possible to experience those intangibles.

Anna C. Knight

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