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Kopac's Corner

Title IX at XXX

by Bob Kopac

June 2002 marked the 30th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that has led to an explosion of female participation in sports. The ramifications of Title IX were in evidence on Sunday, June 8, 2002, at the 30th running of the New York Women's Mini-Marathon. The large increase in race participants (from 78 in 1972 to over 4700 in 2002) is one measurement that Title IX has had a great and positive impact on women's athletics. Thus it is ironic that the landmark legislation has come under legal attack this year.

In January, the National Wrestling Coaches Association filed suit against the Department of Education, claiming that Title IX discriminates against "lesser" men's sports. Many men's track, wrestling, and gymnastics programs have been cancelled at colleges across the United States. Coaches of these sports have raised serious charges of reverse discrimination based on the amount of money apportioned to men's and women's sports. Before one argues the merits or cons of the charges, one should read the original law. The legislation, available at the http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm web site, is as follows:

Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 (Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688)

Section 1681. Sex

(a) Prohibition against discrimination; exceptions. No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except that: [list of 9 exemptions, such as military service academies, educational institutions of religious organizations, and scholarship awards in "beauty" pageants.]

(b) Preferential or disparate treatment because of imbalance in participation or receipt of Federal benefits; statistical evidence of imbalance.

Nothing contained in subsection (a) of this section shall be interpreted to require any educational institution to grant preferential or disparate treatment to the members of one sex on account of an imbalance which may exist with respect to the total number or percentage of persons of that sex participating in or receiving the benefits of any federally supported program or activity, in comparison with the total number or percentage of persons of that sex in any community, State, section, or other area: Provided, that this subsection shall not be construed to prevent the consideration in any hearing or proceeding under this chapter of statistical evidence tending to show that such an imbalance exists with respect to the participation in, or receipt of the benefits of, any such program or activity by the members of one sex.

(c) Educational institution defined.

For the purposes of this chapter an educational institution means any public or private preschool, elementary, or secondary school, or any institution of vocational, professional, or higher education, except that in the case of an educational institution composed of more than one school, college, or department which are administratively separate units, such term means each such school, college or department.

...

So what does the legal wording mean? Contrary to popular opinion that Title IX focuses solely on sports, the real purpose of Title IX is to ban sex discrimination in schools. The law does not mention sports at all. After Congress passed the law, however, some people realized at the time that the law could be applied to the existing gross disparity between men's and women's sports programs.

A later court decision recommended that colleges should have the same ratio of male to female athletes as the ratio of students. For example, if a college has 60% men and 40% women, the college should have 60% male athletes and 40% female athletes. Another way schools could show compliance to the law was proportional funding. Overall, that sounds fair. So what is the problem?

College football and basketball programs are the 800-pound gorillas of college sports, consuming a huge proportion of college sports finances and manpower. To keep within the Title IX objectives, many colleges resort to canceling lesser sports such as men's track and gymnastics. However, the coaches of the lesser men's sports blame Title IX and women's sports instead of blaming the football and basketball programs.

Instead of assigning blame, it would be better to focus on possible solutions. One alternative might be government financing of lesser sports programs. Why? Since colleges produce many U.S. Olympians such as gymnasts, government funding would ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in Olympic sports. The downside of this approach would be another government program and bureaucracy.

Since college football and basketball serve as minor leagues for professional sports, another alternative might be having the NFL and the NBA help fund college football and basketball programs. Although it would be naive and unrealistic to expect the NFL and NBA to do this on their own accord, perhaps the leagues could be persuaded to cooperate if Congress debates why professional sports should be exempt from antitrust laws.

Another suggestion might be having the NCAA impose expense caps on college football and basketball programs. There may be other, more palatable, solutions. Coaches should attempt to find solutions instead of blaming Title IX.