Editorial: Title IX Creates a Path for Women in Athletics

Lasya Sangana, Staffer

Title IX undoubtedly changed the landscape of sports when it passed on June 23, 1972. The law required all educational institutions in the United States (U.S.) to reward male and female athletes equally. In a broader perspective, it prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs, and federally funded activities. The impact of Title IX was very significant because it caused women to get more involved in sports which paved a path for American women to progress in other aspects of their life. In fact, it’s important to acknowledge that it is to the credit of Title IX for the famous athletes that we can look up to. However, we should equally acknowledge the limitations of the law itself.

When Title IX originally passed, it was muffled by the two other landmark provisions that extended women’s rights: The Equal Rights Amendment and Roe v. Wade. Now, Title IX is the only one that’s technically still standing. When it was first passed by President Richard Nixon, an outcry began in early 1973 by many groups whose mission was to preserve traditional roles of women and the ideal American family, such as Concerned Women for America. According to the Harvard Gazette, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was also opposed to the legislation because they were concerned that giving more money to women meant there would be less money for men, and even less for men of color. There was also prolonged opposition over certain guidelines, according to National Affairs, about male-female interest in sports. Title IX made it so that the number of female varsity athletes should reflect the proportion of females in the entire school. Everything was finalized in 1979, but the debate about whether sports were an appropriate place for women continued.

Title IX has had many impacts since then. Currently, according to the New York Times, Title IX has given three million more high school girls the opportunity to play and participate in athletic programs compared to before Title IX. Today, women make up 44% of the total number of college athletes, a vast increase in comparison to the 15% involvement before Title IX. This is impressive, especially considering that Title IX continues to be the only law in the United States that addresses sex discrimination in education. 

Though Title IX has caused a lot of change and is still standing after more than 50 years of being passed, it is important to reexamine the reason why it is the only one of three still standing. Title IX’s advantage is that the law itself was relatively vague which gave it a fighting chance over time. While it is something to celebrate that the law is still in existence, it is also reasonable to say that we should take a moment to consider what Title IX has not addressed.

 Even if access to college sports has increased, inequality still exists. For example, other elements like race and disabilities are notably not included in Title IX’s text. Additionally, while Title IX  has positively impacted women in sports, it is important to look at how the ideas that aren’t addressed in it may flaw it. For instance, the rules being vague means that institutes can work around them. 

An important instance where this is shown is Perdue v. City University of New York in 1997 where the school paid Coach Perdue less than the combined salaries of the two other coaches she worked with. More than 20 years after Title IX, the school was able to keep doing this even though Coach Perdue and her co-workers coached the same number of games, players, and practices. This exemplifies the point that as strong as Title IX is, it isn’t strong enough to address all forms of discrimination. The vagueness of the law allows institutes and programs to continue discriminating against women under the radar for years at a time. 

Additionally, according to Athlete Director U, many schools are capable of manipulating rosters to make it look like they have more female athletes than they do, showcasing another weak point in Title IX. In fact, when the New York Times interviewed female players on athletic rosters at the University of South Florida, they found that more than half of the female players listed weren’t athletes and didn’t even know they were on the team. Furthermore, they also found cases at colleges such as Cornell in which part of the women’s roster, sometimes almost up to 50%, for sports such as fencing, were composed of male players.

Title IX has done a lot to address discrimination in sports, and that fact should be well acknowledged. But, we should also focus on the weaker, vaguer points in the law that allow women to be overlooked even after 50 years. When we look at Title IX and admire the resilience it has through its vague wording, we should also look at how we can improve its legacy to stop discrimination.