On Title IX & Why Facts Matter

In response to a Blue Star Basketball article entitled, "Why it's time to get beyond Title IX" Helen of the Women's Hoops Blog wrote:

Women's Hoops Blog
On top of that, [proportionality] was pushed by MEN'S FOOTBALL because, at the time Title IX was passed and they and the NCAA were fighting against it tooth and nail, women were a distinct minority on college campuses. They never imagined that women would want to go to college, so assessing a universities athletic offerings as it related to the "proportion of men v. women" in attendance guaranteed that football budgets would be protected. I mean, women would never want to get a degree, become doctors or lawyers or... gasp... play sports!

In fact, the protection of football revenues was considered critical by members of the Nixon administration who wanted to assure football interests that, "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to require equal aggregate expenditures or athletics for members of each sex."

We can certainly look back now and debate both the structure or long-term impacts of Title IX and there are plenty of worthy arguments to be discussed. In fact, given the radically different landscape of college sports in 2010, it probably is worth re-evaluating Title IX and determining if we can strengthen it to better reflect the interests of all stakeholders involved.

However, in doing so, it's also worth recognizing that there were plenty of forces beyond "activists" that shaped Title IX and some of them have come quite explicitly from the highest levels of government acting on behalf of revenue generating men's sports. It's perfectly reasonable to go further and assert Title IX would not exist at all if it had not satisfied the interests of the revenue producing stakeholders at the time. Whether they actually succeeded in protecting men's sports for harm is a separate debate that is worth having.

Last year, at about this time, I wrote the following about the memo written by the Nixon administration staffer who clarified the need to minimize the impact of Title IX on revenue producing sports:

Nevertheless, what is alarming about this particular memo is the intent to deliberately "minimize the impact" of Title IX. The concern here was clearly not the welfare of female athletes, but protecting the male athletes, which seems to contradict the spirit of the legislation.

To conclude, Helen is absolutely right: to suggest that the proportionality clause was somehow pushed by activists or at odds with the interests of football at the time it was passed is simply not supported by the evidence available to us. That certainly does not exclude the value of re-evaluating Title IX to make sure that it still serves its initial purpose. Yet in order to do that, everybody will have to come to the table with a clear understanding of how we got to this place to begin with and who advocated for what.

Related Links:

Mythbusting in honor of Title IX's Anniversary

"Title IX and Sports": The Impact of a 1974 Memo to President Richard Nixon