On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the education amendments of 1972 is enacted into law. Title IX prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex. It begins: “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.” As a result of Title IX, any school that receives any federal money from the elementary to university level–in short, nearly all schools–must provide fair and equal treatment of the sexes in all areas, including athletics.
Although Title IX applies to a variety of programs, it has received the most attention for its impact on athletics, especially at the collegiate level. An amendment introduced in 1974 to exclude income-generating sports from Title IX coverage was rejected, and it was followed by like-minded amendments in 1975 and 1977, both of which also failed. In 1975 provisions that specifically prohibited sex discrimination in athletics and provided educational institutions with three years to fulfill the requirements of Title IX were signed into law. Attempts to curtail Title IX enforcement continued into 1978, but the following year the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) issued a final interpretation of Title IX’s effect on intercollegiate athletics, in which HEW mandated that educational institutions provide equal opportunity to men and women in athletic programs. Upon its establishment in 1980, the Department of Education was given the responsibility of overseeing compliance with Title IX through its Office for Civil Rights.
Opponents of Title IX achieved a short-lived victory in the 1984 lawsuit Grove City v. Bell, the decision of which stated that Title IX affected only those programs that directly receive federal assistance; this eliminated the clause’s applicability to athletics programs. In 1988, however, the Civil Rights Restoration Act overrode Grove City v. Bell, stating that Title IX applied to all programs and activities of any educational institution receiving federal financial assistance. Beginning in 1996, under the terms of the 1994 Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, all coeducational colleges and universities participating in federal student financial aid programs were required to submit annual reports with information about their intercollegiate athletics programs to determine Title IX compliance.
Before Title IX, few opportunities existed for female athletes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which was created in 1906 to format and enforce rules in men’s football but had become the ruling body of college athletics, offered no athletic scholarships for women and held no championships for women’s teams. Furthermore, facilities, supplies and funding were lacking. As a result, in 1972 there were just 30,000 women participating in NCAA sports, as opposed to 170,000 men.
Title IX was designed to correct those imbalances. Although it did not require that women’s athletics receive the same amount of money as men’s athletics, it was designed to enforce equal access and quality. Women’s and men’s programs were required to devote the same resources to locker rooms, medical treatment, training, coaching, practice times, travel and per diem allowances, equipment, practice facilities, tutoring and recruitment. Scholarship money was to be budgeted on a commensurate basis, so that if 40 percent of a school’s athletic scholarships were awarded to men, 40 percent of the scholarship budget was also earmarked for women.
Since the enactment of Title IX, women’s participation in sports has grown exponentially. In high school, the number of girl athletes has increased from just 295,000 in 1972 to more than 2.6 million. In college, the number has grown from 30,000 to more than 150,000. In addition, Title IX is credited with decreasing the dropout rate of girls from high school and increasing the number of women who pursue higher education and complete college degrees.