Essay: How Has Title IX Has Affected College

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Title IX and Wrestling

Mention Title IX to college-sports enthusiasts, and one is liable to get a very passionate reaction, whether the reaction is good or bad. Too many female athletes and their fans, Title IX has been an absolute boon, and they credit its protections with the development of modern female college athletic programs. While these programs certainly do not rival male athletic programs, they are far superior to the shoddy programs women had in the past. However, to many male athletes and their fans, Title IX has not been favorable. Male athletics have always been emphasized over female athletics in a college setting. While some advocates suggest that this emphasis reflects an underlying bias, others suggest that men are more likely to seek to enter into sports on a professional basis, making college athletics more practical for men. In turn, because of the enhanced competitiveness of male athletics, colleges are more likely to earn money off of these programs, making it more likely that colleges will expend money on those programs. One sport that has been greatly negatively impacted by Title IX is college wrestling. In fact, the rules that have been promulgated under Title IX actually threaten the existence of college wrestling programs across the nation.

What is Title IX?

Of course, on its face, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Title IX. Title IX was promulgated to help correct the educational gender inequity that women had experienced throughout American history. In response to these concerns, Oregon Representative Edith Green introduced a higher-education bill with provisions regarding equal pay. Those hearings were the first legislative step towards the development of Title IX. By 1971, several members of Congress had sponsored bills seeking to end sex discrimination in education. However, those bills differed significantly. As a result, the Senate and the House had a conference committee to develop a law aimed at ending educational sex discrimination. The resulting law was Title IX. The Senate approved Title IX on May 22, 1972, and the House of Representatives passed it on June 8, 1972. President Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972, and it went into effect on July 1, 1972. The regulations developed around Title IX were signed by President Ford on May 27, 1975.

The purpose of Title IX is to prohibit institutions receiving federal funds from practicing sex-based discrimination. Almost all educational facilities, from elementary schools through colleges, receive some form of federal funding; therefore, Title IX applies to almost everyone receiving an education in modern America. Although Title IX was not written to address gender inequities in sports, it has become synonymous with female athletes receiving greater opportunities to play sports in the educational setting. This paper focuses on the impact of Title IX on both female athletes and on the traditionally male sport of wrestling. However, it is important to keep in mind that Title IX's:

Reach extends far beyond the playing field. Advocates have utilized Title IX to address sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, facilitate the entry of women into non-traditional fields, and ensure equal educational opportunity. In each of these areas, the numbers speak to the great strides that have been made, but they also point to glaring inequities that must still be rectified. (Kuznick & Ryan, 2007).

In practice, what Title IX has done is forced universities to spend roughly the same amount of money on non-revenue sports played by women as on non-revenue sports played by men. Generally, this means that funds expended on sports like football, which actually make money for schools with successful football teams, are not counted in the general revenue by the schools, because they consider that funding sacrosanct. Instead, the funds are compared for all non-revenue sports. Though colleges have a wide-range of choices available to them, when confronted with the need to remedy a Title IX violation, many times they resort to cutting:

men's "non-revenue" sports in order to avoid funding new opportunities for women that would pull some funds away from 'revenue' sports (such as football and men's basketball). In other words, schools prioritize certain men's teams over others, provide no new athletic opportunities for women, and use women's athletics as the scapegoat for the loss of men's teams. In addition, allowing schools to comply with Title IX by cutting men's sports teams reinforces the devaluation of women's sports by making clear that adding women's teams is not worth the necessary restructuring. (Kuznick & Ryan).

What Title IX has done for women's sports

Whatever the drawbacks to its implementation, the reality is that Title IX has had unprecedented success in bringing gender equality to the educational environment, especially in the arena of sports:

In the 1971-72 school year, fewer than 300,000 girls, or one in twenty-seven, played high-school sports. By the 2005-06 academic year, that number had jumped to over 2.9 million, or almost fifty percent. At the collegiate level, although fewer than 32,000 female students participated in athletics in 1972, almost 171,000 women played college sports during the 2005-06 season. Women made up forty four percent of Division 1 college athletes in 2004, compared to a mere fifteen percent in 1971. Furthermore, in 1974 University of Tennessee's women's basketball coach Pat Summit earned $8,900 a year. In 2004, she became the first women's college coach to earn a salary of over a million dollars a year. (Kuznick & Ryan).

Looking at these advances, it is impossible to suggest that Title IX's impact has been all negative. On the contrary, when applied correctly, Title IX can have a tremendously positive impact on college sports.

Title IX's perceived impact on wrestling

However, many feel that Title IX has also had some unintended and unforeseen negative impacts on "minor" college sports opportunities. The perception is that one of the sports that has been hit hardest by these unintended negative consequences is college wrestling. A quick survey of internet wrestling cites demonstrates that many student athletes believe that Title IX is to blame for the demise of their wrestling programs. Moreover, since 1972, the year that Title IX was enacted, there has been a sharp decline in the number of college wrestling programs. According to Intermat, a website devoted to college wrestling, 466 colleges or universities have dropped their wrestling programs since 1972. (Breese, 2008). Some of these drops are probably attributable to Title IX, although some of them occurred in a time period when there was a moratorium on Title IX's application.

The proportionality requirement

One may wonder how a statute aimed at increasing educational opportunities for women could be used to eliminate opportunities for men. To understand how this would work, one needs to look at Title IX's proportionality requirement:

If an institution chooses to prove compliance under the proportionality prong, the institution must prove that its intercollegiate participation opportunities are substantially proportional to the gender ratios of their respective enrollments. For example, if the enrollment at an institution is comprised of 55% female students and 45% male students, the institution's athletic department would need to be comprised of 55% female athletic participants and 45% male athletic participants to be in perfect proportionality. Perfect proportionality, however, is not required between the student enrollment and the athletic participation opportunities. Instead, what is required is substantial proportionality. The OCR makes the determination as to what qualifies as being substantially proportional on a case-by-case basis. The OCR has never come forward with an exact number or range that qualifies as being substantially proportional. (Bentley, 2004).

Moreover, it has never been suggested that colleges should drop programs in order to reach the proportionality requirement. On the contrary, the most logical solution to the proportionality problem is to increase opportunities for women, not to decrease opportunities for men.

The Misapplication of Title IX

The problem is that schools have consistently misapplied Title IX and its proportionality requirements, in order to preserve funds for their revenue sports; they have diverted revenue from male non-revenue sports, instead of simply increasing funding for their female sports teams. The real problem is that resources are misallocated among men's sports. Though men's sports teams continue to receive about twice as much money as women's sports teams that money is disproportionately allocated among the men's teams. "Football and men's basketball consume 74% of the total men's athletic operating budget at Division I -- a institutions, leaving other men's sports to compete for remaining funds." (National Women's Law Center, 2007). Universities could just as easily divert funds from football or basketball to women's sports, rather than shutting down men's minor sports, such as wrestling. In fact, they could easily do so, for example by maintaining football teams the size of pro-football teams, rather than maintaining larger teams, where many players do not even get the opportunity to play. (Haglund, 2005). Though colleges are not required to use the proportionality requirement to meet Title IX's qualifications, if they choose to do so, they do not have to sacrifice men's minor programs, like wrestling,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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