Sports: separate but still unequal

Philip Martin

Philip Martin

The landmark passage of Title IX in 1972 opened new doors for women athletes in colleges and high schools. Now, 31 years later, the law is in trouble.

Department of Education secretary Rod Paige and President George W. Bush have set up a board to review the law and make changes if necessary. These changes are necessary.

In 1972, one in 27 girls in high school played a sport, if a sport was available to them. In 2000, the figure was one in three. In the past three decades, the number of women participating in college sports has increased fivefold.

These are interesting figures, but if you look at what has happened to men’s sports in the past 30 years, it becomes more interesting. In the last three decades, 170 wrestling programs, 80 men’s tennis teams, 70 men’s gymnastics teams and 45 men’s track teams have been eliminated because of Title IX. To make up for this shortfall, colleges and universities across the country have produced 23 women’s bowling teams and 40 women’s equestrian teams, just to meet requirements for Title IX.

You think I’m kidding, but in 2001 Marquette University cut its wrestling team, and just last year, Howard University eliminated its wrestling team. Marquette’s wrestling team was entirely supported by a booster group outside of the university budget. When the boosters offered to raise the money to reinstate the team, the school had no problem with turning them down.

I think the law which made sense 30 years ago is no longer needed. We got things going. Women are now accepted as athletes, and as more and more women sports are created, more and more traditional men’s sports are being eliminated to meet the quota set by Title IX.

The quota equals the ratio of men and women athletes being the same as the overall student body, although there is about 56 percent female college students and only 42 percent women athletes.

One of the key changes being looked at for Title IX ended in a 7-7 tie because one of the members was at another meeting. The change was that there would be a 50-50 split of male and female athletes regardless of the student body, with a leeway of 2-3 percent.

This is probably the best suggestion. I believe the law needs not to have minor changes made, but a total overhaul.

Now, I am not attacking Title IX or saying it was a bad idea — I think it was a great idea at the time. It needs to be changed.