Thursday, December 5, 2002
Proposals would overhaul some Title IX aspects
PHILADELPHIA -- Universities could find it easier to comply
with Title IX under proposals that a federal commission began
Title IX, the law that requires gender equity in collegiate
athletics, has greatly increased opportunities for women in sports
over the past 30 years. But critics say the law discriminates
against men, and schools complain that the government doesn't
enforce the law evenly and has failed to provide enough guidance on
how to comply.
Meeting in Philadelphia, the Commission on Opportunity in
Athletics on Wednesday began formulating recommendations for making
the law clearer and more flexible. The panel will vote on the
recommendations in January and submit them to Education Secretary
Rod Paige, who has final say over whether any are implemented.
Several proposals discussed Wednesday would overhaul a
three-pronged test used by the federal Office of Civil Rights to
determine if a school is complying with Title IX. Schools meeting
any of the three tests are presumed to be in compliance.
The first and most controversial prong measures whether the
percentage of women participating in sports is roughly equal to the
proportion of female students in the school. A lawsuit filed by the
National Wrestling Coaches Association seeks to ban the
proportionality standard, saying it has forced universities to cut
men's programs to achieve parity.
None of the panelists suggested doing away with the prong
altogether, but many favored allowing schools to deviate
significantly from strict proportionality.
Deborah Yow, the athletic director at Maryland, proposed that as
a starting point, 50 percent of a given school's athletes should be
female and 50 percent male. But schools would also be permitted to
deviate from the benchmark by several percentage points.
That would give schools "wiggle room'' to account for walk-ons,
transfers and athletes who become academically ineligible, while
"vastly improving the current status for women in sports,'' she
But panelist Julie Foudy, captain of the U.S. national soccer
team, said the proposal would weaken Title IX by rendering the
proportionality standard essentially meaningless. Universities
would automatically "go to the point of least resistance,'' she
Title IX is "not about making significant improvements, it's
about equality,'' she said. "We're not there.''
Other proposals would eliminate or reduce paperwork
requirements; clarify Title IX regulations; create a standardized
survey for schools to measure female interest in sports; and
encourage universities to stop the "arms race'' in which schools
spend ever-increasing amounts of money on training facilities,
coaches' salaries, chartered planes and other measures designed to
recruit the best athletes.
The 1972 law requires schools receiving federal money to provide
equal athletic opportunities for men and women. Since it took
effect, the number of girls playing varsity high school sports has
risen sharply, as have budgets for women's collegiate athletic
The 15-member commission was formed by Paige in response to the
wrestling coaches' lawsuit, which is pending in U.S. District Court
Paige told the commission Wednesday that its work is "going to
influence policy, going to impact the lives of Americans for
The panel of sports professionals and educators took testimony
at meetings around the country before convening in Philadelphia to
hash out its findings and make recommendations.
"This is a difficult issue. ... We just want to make a good
thing better,'' Paige said.