News From Terre Haute, Indiana

State News

June 24, 2012

‘It only happens if you sue’

Defenders of Title IX victorious in court

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS — The ‘three-prong’ test

Initially, college officials thought Title IX aimed to achieve equality in admissions for women, especially in the medical and law schools. But athletic directors soon realized the law was also mandating equal spending on athletic benefits, opportunities and scholarships. That was alarming.

At Michigan, where Pollick was witnessing the struggle first-hand, athletic director Don Canham echoed the dire warnings of many of his colleagues: “I do not see how intercollegiate athletics or any form of a scholarship program can continue as we know it,” he wrote.

To alleviate the angst, the U.S. Department of Education, charged with enforcing the law, came up with a three-prong Title IX compliance test. It was complicated but charitable. Schools had to meet only one of the guidelines.

They could meet the law’s requirements by showing that the number of female athletes was proportional to overall female enrollment; or by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women athletes; or, failing either of those options, proving that they were meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.

Critics complain the last two options have become so difficult to prove, that schools are going with the first option — the proportionality rule. And that, they say, amounts to a quota system that has pushed some schools into eliminating men’s teams rather than expanding sports for women.

Eric Pearson, chairman of the American Sports Council advocacy group, argues that Title IX has led to the “destruction of sports opportunities at the college level.” Last year, the council filed a lawsuit seeking to keep Title IX from being applied to high schools, arguing it violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it favored female athletes. The lawsuit, like others similar to it, was dismissed.

Title IX supporters argue it’s not the law that forces schools to cut their men’s sports programs. Former Olympic swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, now senior advocacy director for the Women’s Sports Foundation, said school administrators find it more convenient to blame Title IX than to take on the real culprit: high-cost football and men’s basketball programs, which eat up a disproportionate amount of sports budgets.

“Schools decide where they spend their money,” said Hogshead-Makar. “Often, when they decide to cut some of their men’s sports, it’s not so they can fund women’s sports. It’s so they can pump money into football and men’s basketball.”

The latest data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association shows that on the college level, there are more women’s teams than men’s. But over the last 30 years, men’s and women’s teams have both risen. Today, there are 186,460 female student-athletes on 9,660 teams in the NCAA; there are 249,307 male student-athletes on 8,530 teams.

“There are still more opportunities for men than women in sports,” asserts Hogshead-Makar.

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