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At the Crossroads 

After 30 years, is Title IX experiencing growing pains?

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Former WNBA star and Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Cynthia Cooper and Julie Foudy, U.S. Women's Soccer Team captain, will be in Colorado Springs next week, but they won't be here to sign autographs or coach kids' camps.

They'll be here to discuss Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation that prohibits gender discrimination in federally assisted education programs and activities, including athletics.

Cooper and Foudy are a part of the newly formed Commission on Opportunity in Athletics -- a panel of sports professionals and educators assembled by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. It the panel's job to evaluate the current status and effects of Title IX in athletics and to consider whether the 30-year-old law needs an overhaul.

Colorado Springs is one of four cities (the others being Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego) chosen to host a town hall meeting on the subject.

Over a two-day period, the panel will hear from parents, athletes, coaches, educators, local and state experts, and other interested members of the community.

Using this weekend's feedback, they will prepare recommendations for the Secretary of Education to be submitted in January 2003.

While Title IX has had an enormous impact on education, the most visible impact has been on the playing field itself. According to a 2000 report produced by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), just one year prior to implementation of Title IX in 1972, girls accounted for one percent of all high-school athletes, fewer than 32,000 women competed in intercollegiate athletics, and female college athletes received only two percent of overall athletic budgets.

Now, girls account for 40 percent of all high-school athletes and women represent 37 percent of all college varsity athletes. In all, according to the NCWGE, there are currently 2.7 million girls involved in high-school athletics alone, and colleges and universities have added 3,800 more women's teams. Moreover, Title IX has been responsible for everything from improved facilities and playing fields to increases in fair scheduling and practice times.

But because of these monumental strides in equality, however, Title IX is now under fire. The question, point blank, is whether men's teams are being cut to accommodate women's teams in order to stay in compliance with Title IX.

The controversy began back in January when the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Education. The suit alleges that staying in compliance with Title IX creates "quotas" and that the standards used to enforce Title IX have unfairly led to the loss of smaller, nonrevenue producing men's teams.

According to Ron Nighswongr, D-ll director of athletics, there are three ways to be in compliance with Title IX:

Opportunities for males and females to participate in school programs must be proportionate to their ratio of male to female students.

Schools must demonstrate a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for women.

A school must demonstrate that its athletic programs accommodate the interests and abilities of female athletes if there is a large discrepancy in the ratio of male to female students.

These guidelines do not specify that men's and women's sports receive equal funding. Schools that receive state funding are still allowed to decide where to spend their money as long as they are in compliance with these three elements of Title IX.

The controversy now surrounds the first prong of compliance: keeping numbers proportionate.

At high-school and college levels, it is football that most often skews the numbers. Because football team rosters are so large, the number of males participating in sports often appears disproportionate to women's numbers.

District 11, for example, offers 21 sports at the high-school level. Close to half of those sports are for girls. With football impacting the numbers though, of D-11's 3,453 athletes, only 1,416 are female. In other words, in District 11 there are an equal number of males and females, and an equal number of male and female sports.

But, and herein lies the problem under Title IX, the number of male participants is 44 percent higher than that of females.

"There are no women's sports that have those kinds of [roster] numbers," said Theresa Melius, athletic and business director at Doherty High School. "Unless you add cheerleading [which is not accounted for under Title IX]. So football numbers do skew things. But it also comes down to a budgeting issue, especially at the collegiate level."

"When you are looking at numbers, it's difficult," agreed George Egan, assistant director of athletics at UCCS. "We don't have a football team, and we are still having to work toward compliance."

Echoing this point is Assistant Commissioner for the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHASA) Rhonda Blanford-Green, who believes Title IX, despite its flaws, has improved opportunities for women.

"It is the choice of administrators to do away with certain sports -- often nonrevenue sports. Really, it's a matter of diversifying funds. Unfortunately, Title IX may become a scapegoat."

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Title IX Town Hall Meetings

Cheyenne Mountain Resort, 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road

Presentation from panels of invited speakers, public comments on Tues., Oct. 22, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m and 2 to 5 p.m. There will be a pro-Title IX rally from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Main Lodge.

Review and discussion by the Commissioners on Wed., Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is invited to observe the meeting, though there will not be opportunity for comment.

R.S.V.P. to opportunityinathletics@ed.gov

  • After 30 years, is Title IX experiencing growing pains?

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