If there was ever a law with so little words that made a huge impact it was Title IX. The 37-word law turns 40 this week and women everywhere are celebrating. The legislation called the 1972 Education Amendment, Title IX was simple “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”. But a simple law made a huge impact in classroom, colleges, and boardrooms and in women’s confidence everywhere. Since the legislation went into place women playing high school and college sports has jump 1,000 percent. That said there are still issues and impacts of the law those needs to be addressed.
When the conversation of pay for play comes up in college sports, Title IX benefits both women sports as well as men’s sports. In short Title IX ensures gender equality in college sports, but also will help smaller men’s programs like wrestling and lacrosse from being excluded from a pay for play system. As Mechelle Voepel describes in a 2011 ESPN article “there is no viable end-around Title IX to allow schools to pay only those athletes who are in a profitable sport, which generally are football and men’s basketball.” A court would rule that all sports, regardless of size, popularity, or revenue source for the university, would need to be a part of the pay for play system.
Sadly the playing field is still not equal 40 years later. How many stories have you heard about a high school or college building a new state of the art complex and forgetting the girl’s softball field or a girl’s locker room? In a summit held at the White House this week, Olympic gold medalist in women’s soccer, Julie Foudy, told the story of when she and fellow teammates planned the first Women’s World Cup tournament and were told to book stadiums that held no more than 5,000 fans and only on the East Coast because the women’s game had limited regional appeal. To her and everyone else surprised they opened in a packed 80,000-seat Giants Stadium to a standing ovation. A great sign of how far women sports and women in sports have come.
As a woman who wants to merge herself into a career in sports and in an industry that now has close to 60 percent of participants who are women runners, I say “Happy Anniversary, Title IX”, thank you President Nixon for the wonderful future you made for women like me everywhere.