Thirty years after becoming law, Title IX is still stirring the landscape of college sports.
The measure, which mandated gender equity for institutions receiving federal funds, is the subject of widespread debate, applauded on some fronts and attacked on others.
Women's sports has become big time, with pro leagues in basketball and soccer and scores of scholarships that can be traced directly to the Education Amendments Act that became law on June 23, 1972.
The progress has been painstaking.
According to the Women's Sports Foundation, fully 80 percent of the nation's schools and colleges still have not complied with some parts of the law. The 1999-2000 NCAA gender equity report said male athletes receive $133 million more in athletic scholarships than female athletes. Last week, the National Women's Law Center released a study identifying 30 colleges and universities with a total gap of $6.5 million in athletic scholarships between women and men.
Among those schools was the University of Miami, defending national champions in football and baseball, which, according to the NWLC study, has the largest difference ($6,545) between average scholarships for men and women, even though it has more women than men involved in sports.
The flip side of those numbers is that since Title IX passed, female high school athletic participation has increased by 847 percent. Where just one in 27 high school girls played varsity sports in 1972, that ratio was one in every 2.5 in 2001.
There are some, however, who claim the law has sounded the death knell for a number of men's programs, in a sort of reverse discrimination.
The College Sports Council, representing coaches of wrestling, track, diving and gymnastics programs, filed last week for a summary judgment in its suit against the Department of Education. The suit asserts that Title IX has deteriorated into a quota system.
"We are for Title IX," said Leo Kocher, wrestling coach at the University of Chicago and president of the CSC. "We oppose its quota aspects."
In a 1979 interpretation of Title IX by the Carter administration, one of the measures for showing compliance required that the number of men and women athletes be proportional to the institution's enrollment. That test has led to problems, according to Kocher.
"Marquette University wrestling has covered its entire budget for the last 10 years by fund-raising after being threatened with being dropped in 1991," Kocher said. "Last year, they were told the program was being cut for gender equity."
Marquette wrestling is not an isolated example. According to CSC, the sport has lost 50 percent of its programs.
But is Title IX to blame for the cutbacks? Not according to Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.
"From 1984-88, Title IX did not apply to intercollegiate athletics," she said.
During those four years, 53 wrestling programs were dropped. Over the next 12 years, when Title IX again covered sports, 56 wrestling programs were dropped.