A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Title IX: 25 Years of Progress -- June 1997

Achieving Success Under Title IX

Increasing participation in athletics

Title IX has helped girls and women participate in interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics in far greater numbers than they had in the past. When Title IX became law, dramatic change was needed to level the playing fields of this nation's schools and to change the perception of the place of girls and women on them. Just one year before the enactment of Title IX, in 1971, a Connecticut judge was allowed by law to disallow girls from competing on a boys' high school cross country team even though there was no girls' team at the school. And that same year, fewer than 300,000 high school girls played interscholastic sports. Today, that number is 2.4 million.

The rise of women's basketball is illustrative of the dramatic changes that have taken place since the enactment of Title IX. In 1972, 132,299 young girls played high school basketball. In 1994-95 the number had increased to 412,576, an increase of over 300 percent. In the last two years, women's basketball has come of age with the gold-medal victory of the American women's basketball team at the 1996 Olympics, the increased media attention to the NCAA women's basketball tournament, and the development of two professional women's basketball leagues.

"Without Title IX, I'd be nowhere."--Cheryl Miller, Olympic athlete
Outstanding member of 1984 gold medal women's basketball team

Girls and women also are increasingly participants in sports that have traditionally been seen as out of bounds for women, including lacrosse, wrestling, soccer, rugby and ice hockey. In one sport that is more and more a favorite for young girls-- soccer--the results have led to a World Cup championship. In 1996, the U.S. national soccer team captured the first-ever women's Olympic medal in this sport before a crowd of 76,481, and in doing so established its position as the world's premier women's soccer program.

In many ways, the very image of American women in the sports arena is being redefined by the many accomplishments of women in athletics. Women are now seen as sports stars in their own right, from Mia Hamm in soccer to Sheryl Swoopes in basketball. The inspiring story of Dr. Dot Richardson, the captain of the American Olympic softball team, who immediately left her triumph in Atlanta to begin her medical residency, exemplifies just what has been accomplished on the field and off as a result of Title IX.

Richardson - Olympian

Dot Richardson was 10 years old, playing catch in an Orlando, Florida, park when a man noticed her exceptional arm and asked if she wanted to play on his Little League team. Richardson was thrilled. "We'll just cut your hair short," said the coach, "and call you Bob." Richardson never believed that ball playing was reserved for boys. She went on to become a four-time All-American in college and was named NCAA player of the decade for the 1980s. She graduated as a physician from the University of Louisville Medical School, often ending 20-hour hospital shifts with workouts and practice so that she could compete in 1996 in the first women's softball appearance in the modern Olympic Games. She hit the first home run in Olympic softball history, helping the U.S. team win the gold medal. Richardson is now a resident in orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California.

Increasing athletic scholarships

Before the passage of Title IX, athletic scholarships for college women were rare, no matter how great their talent. After winning two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics, swimmer Donna de Varona could not obtain a college swimming scholarship: for women, they did not exist. It took time and effort to improve the opportunities for young women: two years after Title IX was voted into law, an estimated 50,000 men were attending U.S. colleges and universities on athletic scholarships--and fewer than 50 women. In 1973, the University of Miami (Florida) awarded the first athletic scholarships to women--a total of 15 in golf, swimming, diving, and tennis. Today, college women receive about one-third of all athletic scholarship dollars.

Athletic Facilities at Fresno State University, California

Fresno State University had spent more than $15 million on state-of-the-art facilities for men while it had spent about $300,000 on the women's athletic facilities, which were considered substandard. Despite this, Fresno State captured 9 of the last 12 softball conference championships, and 5 current or former members of the Fresno State softball team were on the U.S. Olympic softball team. To meet the requirements of Title IX, Fresno State completed an ambitious plan costing more than $8 million to provide equity in athletic facilities for women. A new building for women athletes houses four new team rooms. In addition, the women's Fresno State Bulldog Softball team has a new stadium, which seats more than 2,500 fans. When the team last played its traditional rival, bleachers were added for the more than 5,000 people who filled the stadium. Coach Margie Wright, who was also a coach on the gold medal Olympic softball team, tells her Fresno State athletes that they got the stadium because of their hard work.

Achieving equal opportunity for women in intercollegiate sports has not been an easy task. Some colleges have faced budgetary restraints and others simply have been reluctant to change the status quo. Given the fact that no federal Courts of Appeals have ruled against Title IX's athletic provisions, however, it is clear that the immediate challenge for our nation's higher education community is to find positive ways to comply with the law.

Here it is important to recognize that there is no mandate under Title IX that requires a college to eliminate men's teams to achieve compliance. The thought that "if women are to gain opportunities, then men must lose opportunities," presents a false dichotomy. As with other educational aspects of Title IX, and according to the expressed will of Congress, the regulation is intended to expand opportunities for both men and women.

Title IX: Student Participation in Athletics

In the assessment of the "interests and abilities" portion of the Title IX regulations, a three part test governs. As the name suggests, this test consists of three separate and distinct parts. All that is required under Title IX is that an institution be in compliance with one part of that test. No one part of the test is the predominant or "true" measure of compliance. The three parts of the test are:

Part One: Substantial Proportionality. This part of the test is satisfied when participation opportunities for men and women are "substantially proportionate" to their respective undergraduate enrollments.
Part Two: History and Continuing Practice. This part of the test is satisfied when an institution has a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (typically female).
Part Three: Effectively Accommodating Interests and Abilities. This part of the test is satisfied when an institution is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students even where there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.

Opening up avenues of achievement through athletics

The critical values learned from sports participation--including teamwork, standards, leadership, discipline, self-sacrifice and pride in accomplishment--are being brought to the workplace as women enter employment in greater numbers, and at higher levels than ever before. For example, 80 percent of female managers of Fortune 500 companies have a sports background. Also, high school girls who participate in team sports are less likely to drop out of school, smoke, drink or become pregnant. It is no surprise, then, that 87 percent of parents now accept the idea that sports are equally important for boys and girls.

"I Should Watch...They Should Compete"

"As a child, I loved athletics and physical activities. I was talented, but my talent was not appreciated or approved of by most. I watched my brothers compete on school teams. It didn't matter that in the neighborhood pick-up games, I was selected before my brothers. Society dictated that I should watch, and that they should compete. So at home in the backyard, I would catch as my brother worked on his curve ball, I would shag flies as he developed his batting prowess and, as I recall, I frequently served as his tackling dummy. The brother I caught and shagged for, and for whom I served as a tackling dummy, went on to Georgetown University on a full athletic grant. He later became vice president of a large banking firm. So, while I rode in the back seat on the bus of opportunity during my lifetime, I want my daughter's daughter and her peers to be able to select a seat based on their abilities and their willingness to work. Don't deny them the things that I dreamed of."-- Excerpts of a letter sent to OCR in spring 1995 by Joan Martin, Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Monmouth University, New Jersey


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Last Updated -- July 10, 1997, (pjk)