June 23, 1972, is probably not one of the most famous dates in the history of college education in this country, but it certainly is one of the most significant. On that date Title IX of the Education Amendments Act was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any institution or educational program receiving federal aid. Three years later, in May of 1975, President Ford signed Title IX athletics regulations and submitted them for Congressional review. The NCAA challenged the legality of
Title IX in 1976, but colleges across the country had already fielded women’s teams in several sports, as well as offering athletic scholarships to women.
Before Title IX, few opportunities existed for female athletes. According to one website, “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
women, 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 withdecreasing the dropout rate of girls from high school and increasing the number of women who pursue higher education and complete college degrees.”
That same website points out a broader and more important aspect of this legislation: “Although the most well-known application of Title IX
regards athletics, there are several protections the law specifically
delineates. Section 106.40 protects pregnant and parenting students from discrimination based on pregnant status, marital status, or parenthood. Their condition must be treated as any other medical condition. Students may not be excluded from any activity based on their condition of pregnancy, parenthood, or marital status. If they attend a separate facility, they must elect to do so voluntarily, and the facility must provide comparable programs.”
On the 40th anniversary of Title IX, fans of female athletes can
celebrate their success, and supporters of equal rights for women in every aspect of society can remind us
that this success is far from complete.