Thirty years have passed since the United States government amended Title IX, one of the most successful civil rights laws in our history. Yet the controversial piece of legislation still generates tremendous national exposure.
In 1972, the Dept. of Education, led by Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink, advocated legislation that would bar sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including high school and collegiate athletics.
Mink and Congresswoman Edith Green, D-Ore., authored and co-sponsored the legislation, which was originally written to open and expand educational opportunities for women. Since the law’s induction, females throughout the sporting world have positively benefited from the chance at equal opportunity.
UCSB sophomore Brandy Richardson, the starting power forward for the women’s basketball team, is originally from Hawaii and stressed the importance of Mink’s contribution to gender equity.
“[Mink’s] legacy will live on in Hawaii, every college campus in America, and in every female athlete in the nation,” Richardson said Monday night at the fifth annual Distinguished Women in Sports Lecture in Corwin Pavilion. “Title IX has created so many opportunities for girls today.”
UCSB currently has 19 NCAA programs divided into 10 men’s teams and nine women’s teams. Prior to this year, the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams were terminated after the 2002 season for not bringing in enough revenue.
“We’ve been certified by the Office [for] Civil Rights and the NCAA,” Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Media Relations Bill Mahoney said. “The certification shows that we have met everything from gender equity, funding and academics.”
The Title IX issue has been hotly debated on Capitol Hill lately and its future status remains at a crossroads. Just last week, the Bush administration’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics moved toward making the legislation less rigid and more interpretive.
“Clearly, [Title IX] has given women the opportunity to participate in athletic competition and it’s done great things for college athletics,” said Jim Romeo, former athletic director and current UCSB sports management professor. “I think that any sort of legislation should undergo scrutiny and a review process, though. The intent wasn’t to decrease the opportunity for boys and men. It gets very complex and I don’t know if the situation will ever be resolved.”
Title IX currently applies a three-pronged approach to meeting its equity standards. Schools must either provide for proportionality – which demonstrates that there is roughly the same ratio of male to female athletes as of students enrolled in the school – make progress for better compliance in the future or show that there is interest from the student-athletes themselves.
UCSB football existed twice in the past, competing at the Division II level. Initially dropped after the 1971 season, the program returned only to suffer a permanent cut in 1991, after losing considerable amounts of money and failing to fulfill attendance quotas necessary to make the jump to Division I competition.
Since UCSB does not have a football program, meeting proportionality is not as difficult for those athletic programs seeking an equivalent women’s team. Schools with football must balance rosters in order to comply with gender equity while maintaining 85 scholarship players on the roster.
“Without football in the equation at UCSB we just need to stay within the existing compliance,” UCSB men’s soccer Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We have a maximum on our roster in order to be in compliance with the student population ratio while the women’s [soccer] team has a minimum. Sure, sometimes I wish that our roster could be a littler larger, but does that mean that we should change the whole dynamics of Title IX? No way.”
The gender equity law is not merely limited to scholarship quotas – Title IX proposes that sports should receive funding equally and not in a gender-biased way.
“Putting equal amounts of money into both [genders’] teams is what Title IX is about. Problems that I’ve seen were that our assistant coaches weren’t paid as well as the men’s [basketball] team’s [assistants] and our recruiting and traveling budgets were less,” UCSB women’s basketball Head Coach Mark French said. “But the primary reason that I support Title IX is because I have a 14-year-old daughter that I want to have the same opportunity that everyone else can in this world.”