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3/29/2005

Bush Tears Down Title IX

As a person who played little league and high school sports and has worked in pro sports, I used to have some very strong opinions about Title IX. Now, as the father of two amazing little girls I have some even stronger opinions on Title IX and they are not the same opinions I held before. Title IX is the 1972 law that requires gender equity in collegiate sports.

In my younger, athlete days I felt, and not entirely incorrectly, that the whole point of Title IX was being missed in the the way it was implemented. It seemed to me that women where not getting more opportunities, but that men where simply getter fewer. On most college campuses the football team is the only program that turns a profit. The football team essentially pays for all other sports both male and female. Oh sure, some of the elite basketball programs will make money and at Tennessee and Connecticut the women's hoops teams even make a profit, but football is 10 ton guerilla in the room.

The problem is that football eats up 60 or so scholarships (depending on what level the school competes at). Of course all of the scholarships are allotted to male student-athletes. It takes a lot of women's soccer and volleyball and equestrian and whatever teams to equal the playing field. So, instead of offering more women's sports many, if not most schools simply started cutting men's sports to even it up.

The programs most frequently cut where baseball, wrestling, track, tennis and swimming. It seemed to me then, and seems to me even now that that was not the intent of the law. I don't think women want few opportunities for men, I think they probably want more opportunities for women.

In recent years however this has changed a little. Many schools have added women's soccer (USF SDSU, USD). Many more have added softball. Some (SDSU) have even added women's equestrian. Men's sports are still getting cut (baseball at USD) but now women's sports are being added as well (golf at BHSU). According to this OP/ED piece written in opposition to Title IX women's athletic opportunities have increased nine fold since 1972. This writer makes that sound like a bad thing.

While it is a shame that some men lose the teams they compete on, the fact is that schools have limited resources and why should a men's team that is funded by football be kept at the expense of a women's team that is also funded by football? Let's be honest. If not for football nobody would be playing any college sports.

So men have to pay a little bit of a price if their chosen sport isn't football. Women start ouy 60 scholarships down. Women don't have a chance to get one of those 60 football scholarships. This law has at least insured that women have an equal chance at the scholarships that remain after those first 60.

Is it perfect? No. Is better than the alternative? Yes. Would it be more fair if football was simply taken out of the equation? Yes. In fact that is my fix for this. Football funds all other sports, so keep them out it. Without football nothing else is possible. Just make sure the opportunities are equal for men and women after football is removed.

The Bush administrations fix is a travesty (just like everything else they try to fix) that lets schools essentially opt out of Title IX if students don't fill out an email survey and say "oh please please please don't cut women's lacrosse!"

The rise in women's sports popularity is important. My almost five-year-old daughter loves sports. We collect trading cards together. We go to sporting events together. I am going to be her T-ball coach. Sports has always been a part of her life, but until I took her to an Augustana women's basketball game this winter, she apparently had no idea women could play basketball. I always assumed she knew girls could play. We play in the back yard on her little hoop all time. She's even been to a day camp in which she was given basketball instruction. I assumed she knew girls could play.

Then I took her to the game and when we walked in her face lit up. She said, "Daddy! Those are girls playing basketball!" I said yes they are and she said "I thought only boys could play basketball." It broke my heart that she had been feeling for however long she was aware, that only boys could play. I certainly never told her that. I always encouraged her to play. I always play games with her. She had never been exposed to women's sports though.

Today, in part because of Title IX, little girls like my daughters have Mia Hamm, and Lisa Leslie and Dot Richardson and countless others to look up to. In addition, if more girls and young women are involved in competitive sports, it gives them another good reason to stay off drugs, to study hard and to say "NO" to boyfriends, all of which President Bush and his GOP cronies claim they are in favor of.

Title IX is worth saving and the Bush administration is making changes that will undo what has taken more than 30 years to accomplish and will take another 30 years to fix once he leaves office which can't come soon enough for my little girls...or yours.

4 Comments:

At 3/30/2005 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Sophia said...

Thank you for a well-written article. I played softball, basketball, tennis and volleyball in college at NSC in Aberdeen, 1972-1976. Neither me nor any of my teammates had played any organized sports in high school except track. No others existed for us.

We practiced basketball in the ratty old too small gym. The only time we played on the big court was when we had games, so we had no home field advantage. And we never played in the arena where the men played.

We had one maroon uniform which we wore for all sports. We won most of our basketball games and two state championships in softball. (The only governing body for women's sports was the AIAW - Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. All colleges and universities were in the same class. Thus, one state championship for women. When we played in the College Women's World Series we faced today's NCAA Division I teams. I remember especially the teams like Arizona State and UCLA. Wow.

I am very glad I had an opportunity to be a foremother for all the girls playing now. I am thrilled to watch the Women's NCAA championships going on now. I am thrilled that Pat Summitt, Tennessee,is now the winningest college coach ever. I love watching the WNBA.

I am sickened that the Bushies would destroy women's sports so that the little girls coming up will not have a Mia Hamm to cheer for, or a Becky Hammon to watch.

I'm doing my best to bring their latest shameful manuever to the attention of others. Thank you for doing the same.

 
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