50 years of Title IX: What is Title IX and how has it transformed women’s sports?

·5 min read

What is Title IX and how has it transformed women’s sports? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Title IX forever changed the future of girls and women in sports.

When the federal civil law was passed on June 23, 1972, the impact was significant on women’s sports, opening doors and removing barriers for women of all ages and at all levels. 

The legislation gave women more opportunities in sports from the high school level, through the collegiate scene and into the professional landscape. The movement has even increased opportunities for women in coaching. 

In 1972, approximately 300,000 women and girls competed in collegiate athletics and high school sports. Statistically, only two percent of female athletes received college athletic budgets, while scholarships for women practically did not exist. 

In 2012, 40 years after the passage of Title IX, more than three million women were competing in high school and college athletes. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, two in every five girls in the United States play sports. That number was one in 27 prior to Title IX.

As the 50th anniversary approaches on June 23, Title IX continues to be the only law in the United States that addresses sex-based discrimination in education.

Here we take a look at what Title IX is, the impact it has had and how it is being celebrated this year:

What is Title IX?

On June 23, President Richard Nixon signed a federal civil rights law in the United States called the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX was the part of that law that banned sex-based discrimination in schools or educational programs that receive funds from the federal government. 

Prior to Title IX, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned various forms of employment discrimination but did not mention discrimination in education. As part of the law, athletic programs were considered educational programs and activities.

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.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972

Title IX protects women from not only sexual discrimination but also sexual harassment and sexual assault.

How does Title IX impact women’s sports?

Title IX pertains to three parts of athletics, according to the NCAA – participation, scholarships and other benefits as follows:

  • Equipment and supplies

  • Scheduling of games and practice times

  • Travel and daily allowance/per diem

  • Access to tutoring

  • Coaching

  • Locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities

  • Medical and training facilities and services

  • Housing and dining facilities and services

  • Publicity and promotions

  • Support services 

  • Recruitment of student-athletes

Any institution that does not comply with Title IX is at risk of losing state and federal funding.

What hasn't Title IX accomplished in women's sports?

While the passage of Title IX has positively impacted women in sports significantly, there are still many discrepancies. 

First of all, many of the rules are vague, making it easy for institutions to work around them.

One of the ways that schools can demonstrate compliance with Title IX is to show their roster spots for women are proportional to their overall female enrollment. Sports investigative reporter Rachel Axon of USA Today says that 87% of NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools offer fewer athletic opportunities for women than they should be based on proportionality.

On the other hand, she reports, many FBS schools are "abusing accepted rules to make it look like they offer thousands more female athletic opportunities than they do." This roster manipulation is not technically against the rules of Title IX compliance, making it difficult to hold schools accountable.

According to the NCAA (h/t FiveThirtyEight), other inequalities since Title IX between women and men in college sports can be seen in the chart below:

Category

Female-To-Male Ratio

Enrollment

1.33

Athletic Participation

0.88

Athletic Scholarships

0.88

Total Athletic Expenses

0.50

Recruiting Expenditures

0.46

Head Coach Salaries

0.43

Assistant Coach Salaries

0.39

What is a Title IX investigation?

Because Title IX protects women from sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault, a Title IX compliance officer is in charge of handling misconduct cases.

If a notice of sexual assault or sexual harassment is flagged at a university, an independent examination called a Title IX investigation is required. 

How is the 50th anniversary of Title IX being celebrated?

The month of June is going to be filled with initiatives to celebrate the milestone.

ESPN+ launched a Fifty/50-themed collection on June 1 that features female empowerment and a collection of inspirational stories. 

Additionally, ESPNU will dedicate the month to women's sports programming, with the majority of coverage including women's high school, collegiate and professional sports.

Here are the other celebrations this month:

June 1: W. Studios Fifty/50 Shorts Presented by Google

June 1: Rita Ora's women's empowerment anthem "Finish Line"

June 1: FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine on effects of Title IX in women's sports

June 2: Bald Men on Campus

June 2: Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted Podcast

June 5: Digital and Video Feature on Trinity Rodman

June 15: 30 for 30: “Dream On” Directed by Kristen Lappas

June 17: FiveThirtyEight on growth of women's sports following Title IX

June 18: ABC Owned Television Stations’ Race and Culture Content Team Presents “Our America: Fifty/50” Hosted by Sofia Carson

June 21 & June 28: “37 Words” Directed by Dawn Porter & Nicole Newnham 

June 21: “That’s What She Said” Podcast

June 22: ESPN Cover Story: Jonquel Jones

June 23: FiveThirtyEight’s Dvora Meyers on coaching opportunities for women

June 23: “SEC Storied: CATCH98 Presented by T-Mobile”

June 23: “All Access with Pitt Women’s Lacrosse: The Inaugural Season”

June 23: “Pushing Forward: Title IX in the ACC”

June 23: “Giant Killers: The Story of the Lady Longhorns”

June 24: Fifty/50 live podcast event at The Paley Center, Hosted by Julie Foudy

The full descriptions of these events can be found here