To hear reporters tell it, Americans one and all are gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. But if you look closer, you’ll notice that some people are missing - notably the thousands of male student-athletes who have lost participation opportunities because their teams were cut or capped.
Title IX was enacted by Congress in 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Since then, the regulations that test compliance with the law have evolved to the point where they permit the very discrimination the law was intended to prohibit.
Thanks to the dubious way Title IX is enforced, schools everywhere fear they must make their sports rosters “proportional” to their enrollment in order to be safe from the wrath of federal regulators and trial lawyers. That means if 57 percent of the student body is female (the average at America’s colleges) then 57 percent of the school’s athletes must be female as well. This compliance test serves to advantage the majority gender on college campuses in every way possible, while the minority gender is pushed below the law.
However, the glowing media coverage of Title IX’s anniversary avoids these dirty details and blatantly crosses the line from objective reporting to cheerleading. Any damage done by Title IX’s enforcement is roundly ignored, and any criticism is summarily dismissed.
The team at ESPN has done its best to invent new scapegoats for the loss of male athletic opportunities. For example, ESPN’s Peter Keating claims that “you will find that the real enemy of men’s sports isn’t Title IX. It’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarship limits.” His theory fails to consider that hundreds of colleges don’t even offer athletic scholarships.
ESPN’s Kate Fagan and Luke Cyphers label critics “noisy people,” telling them Title IX is not to blame for cuts in men’s sports. The real culprits? “King football and prince basketball,” they say. What about the roughly 40 percent of NCAA schools that don’t have football teams or the 75 percent of NCAA and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics member schools that operate outside of the NCAA Division I basketball machine?
Before Title IX was passed, one of the law’s architects, Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh, assured Americans, “The language of my amendment does not require reverse discrimination. It only requires that each individual be judged on merit, without regard to sex.” Since then, Mr. Bayh’s best intentions have been steamrolled by bureaucrats who have engineered a complex set of regulations that, in practice, incentivize school administrators to do just what the law forbids: deny the benefits of participation on the basis of gender.
Without reform, it’s just going to get worse. High school sports are now the target of gender-quota advocates.
Although Title IX’s three-part test for compliance, which includes the proportionality standard, was specifically designed for intercollegiate athletics, gender-quota activists are mounting pressure on high schools to use it as well. In 2010, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed complaints against 12 school districts, alleging discrimination based on their sports teams failing the proportionality test. Following the NWLC’s lead, hundreds of copycat complaints were soon after filed against high schools.
The Obama administration is also coming after booster-club bake sales and car washes. Even though nothing in the law stipulates that private, voluntary donations are subject to Title IX regulations, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) scrutinizes booster-club donations made by parents to their own children’s teams when investigating complaints. Donors to clubs at a high school in Council Rock, Pa., discovered that their charitable gifts were afoul of Title IX, according to the OCR.
The American Sports Council’s mission is to protect sports-participation opportunities for both male and female students. We support language of the Title IX statute which states that no person in the United States shall on the basis of their gender “be excluded from participation in, [or] denied the benefits of participation.”
We desperately need to reform Title IX’s regulations so they are consistent with the language of the law. The proportionality standard serves to protect only the interests of the majority sex on college campuses while ignoring the constitutional right of the minority sex to have equal protection of the law.
Title IX turned 40 on June 23, and we should applaud the expansion of opportunities for female athletes. However, now that the anniversary has passed, we still need to have reasonable dialogue about how we should best regulate the law while protecting the constitutional rights of all student athletes, male and female.
Eric Pearson is the chairman of the American Sports Council, a national coalition of coaches, athletes, parents, alumni and fans who are devoted to preserving and promoting the student-athlete experience.