Saturday, October 28, 2006

Few pieces of legislation in sports have been talked about more than Title IX.

Congress’ intent in penning Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 was to mandate gender equality in academics and in athletics.

“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,” it reads.

There is no dispute Title IX has closed large gender gaps for women in academics. According to one study, 9 percent of medical degrees in 1972 were earned by women and 38 percent in 1994. With law degrees, the numbers went from 7 percent to 43 percent.

It also can be said that Title IX has caused the most turmoil in athletics — college, high school, secondary and elementary education.

Title IX requires proportional participation opportunities. The percentage of female athletes in the athletic program needs to match the percentage of women in a school’s student body. The only defense to failing to have the mandated number of participants is for a school to demonstrate it is gradually adding women’s sports over time to try to expand participation or that it already has accommodated the interest and ability of all women.

While enforcement has been getting stricter in the past decade, the fallout from Title IX has become bigger and bigger.

James Madison University, with 15,000 students, was hit the hardest this year by Title IX. According to Jim McCarthy, spokesman for the College Sports Council that included coaching associations, student-athletes and parents advocating reform of Title IX, James Madison eliminated seven men’s programs and three women’s programs, effective July 2007.

The men’s programs include archery, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track, outdoor track, swimming and wrestling, while the women’s programs included archery, gymnastics and fencing. McCarthy said 144 athletes and 11 coaches were cut.

“JMU’s student body is 61 percent women and 39 percent men, so 61 percent of the athletes have to be women,” McCarthy said. “JMU is [cutting] the most teams ever cut in a single stroke. There are 1,200 more women’s teams in the NCAA than men. But that’s not good enough as Title IX mandates the same number of athletes. This is equality of opportunity versus equality of outcomes. Women have plenty of opportunity right now.”

McCarthy added that “track teams have been among the most hurt in college sports. Among the most teams cut. Track provides athletic opportunity for students of all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be a huge power forward to be in the sport. And the budget is minuscule. It’s not budgetary reasons; it’s to comply with the proportionality of the gender quotas. … Men are being penalized because women are not participating in as high a numbers.

“Every school in the D.C. area has more women’s teams than men’s. We are arguing that’s fair. The other side is saying ‘no.’ Schools face a tough choice. They are having a hard time getting enough women to participate, and since they cannot, they have to cut men.

“Last year, the [Department of Education] issued new guidelines — survey the students and find out what sports they want to do. When they enroll in the fall, answer questions about participating and the school would take those results. The Title IX proponents sued. We are asking the DOE to strengthen that guideline.”

Jocelyn Samuels, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center, disagrees, writing in a press release in March that “The Department of Education has created a gaping hole in Title IX standards by authorizing schools to deny new athletic opportunities based on surveys alone.”

To be heard, the College Sports Council is staging a rally with athletes, parents and coaches from James Madison to effect Title IX reform on Nov. 2, 11 a.m., in front of DOE on 400 Maryland Ave. SW. McCarthy said women, along with the men, will be speaking out at the rally. Afterward, the James Madison men’s and women’s track and field teams will run side-by-side around DOE in protest. Athletes from any school may participate in the run.

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