2003: Bush panel keeps Title IX intact

A divided Bush administration advisory commission voted Jan. 30 for only modest changes to Title IX, the gender-equity law that has substantially increased the number of college female athletes over the last 30 years.

Women’s sports advocates had feared the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics would seek to overhaul – and likely weaken – Title IX. But after considering nearly two dozen proposals during two days of sometimes contentious meetings, the panel failed to pass any sweeping recommendations. (Golfweek featured Title IX and its effect on golf in the Sept. 7, 2002 issue.)

The commission will forward its report to education secretary Rod Paige by Feb. 28 and he will consider whether to recommend changing the law. It would take an act of Congress to fundamentally change the law, but Paige can alter the way compliance is measured.

In a key vote, the commission deadlocked 7-7 on a plan to alter the requirement that the ratio of male and female athletes at colleges and universities be roughly the same as the overall student body.

Several other changes were recommended by the commission. One would establish a predetermined number of roster spots on each team that count toward Title IX compliance, rather than the actual number of athletes.

Co-chairman Ted Leland, athletic director at Stanford, said this rule would prevent a school from putting “100 women on the rowing team” to comply with the law.

“People just pump their numbers up by having a huge roster on their first day of competition,” Leland said.

The commission also voted to not count male walk-ons – athletes not on scholarships – and nontraditional students (those who are part-time or are older) as part of a school’s male total. The change mostly would affect smaller schools, particularly community colleges.

Although most of the commissioners seemed in favor of changing the proportionality standard, their proposals were so varied that none could muster a majority. The most sweeping proposal would have eliminated the proportionality requirement altogether. It failed, 11-4.

Some women’s organizations still are not convinced that the new proposals are a step in the right direction for Title IX and women’s athletics.

“The most disappointing thing about this commission is that they have not done their homework,” Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said in a release. “The public deserved a better effort.”

Other critics say proportionality has forced schools to cut male sports to meet the ratio requirement. Roughly 400 men’s college teams were eliminated in the 1990s, with wrestling taking such a blow that the National Wrestling Coaches Association has filed suit, claiming the legislation has evolved into a quota system.

The ratio requirement also has affected golf, with Division I women golfers growing 134.6 percent over the last 20 years compared with a 4.6 percent increase for men. Based on an NCAA sports participation study, there were 590 men’s golf programs – Divisions I, II and III – in the 1981-82 season. The number had risen to 717 in 2001, a 21.5 percent increase. For women, there were 125 programs for all divisions in 1981-82, and 402 in 2001, an increase of 221.6 percent.

– Staff and wire reports

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