Conclusion of a two-part column
The history of Title IX, a law originally not favored by Black members of Congress, has seen a series of ups and downs during its four and a half decades.
But perhaps in hindsight the Black congresspersons foresaw what would come of this law. The NCAA’s latest report, “45 Years of Title IX,” points out that Black females “have experienced slight gains in participation” in all three divisions over the past 15 years.
Although female participation overall in 2016 is 54 percent, Black female participation in all three divisions increased barely a percent in 15 years from 10.1 percent in 2001 to 11.2 percent in 2016.
The percentage of Black female head coaches of women’s teams has dropped to 7.7 percent in 2016 from 8.6 percent in 2011. Black female assistant coaches have “slightly increased” from 10.8 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2016.
It appears that Title IX has been at best a modest success for females of color.
The NCAA report noted that, contrary to predictions that Title IX would slowly kill men’s sports, expenditures over the past decade for men’s and women’s athletics in all three divisions have doubled. But the numbers also show that Division I athletics departments spend twice as much on men’s programs than on women’s programs, with the widest gap at Football Bowl Division (FBS) schools. There’s somewhat more equitable spending on men’s and women’s programs at Division II and Division III schools.
Looking back, neither Title IX’s original text nor Congress envisioned it as a sports law. Nonetheless, “a revolution…with new participation opportunities for girls and women” took place in the 1970s, notes the report.
The law’s ups and downs over its existence have included athletic department officials oft-debating new compliance regulations and policy interpretations as a result. Even the NCAA once sued the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1976 over the law’s validity, but failed.
Almost all athletic departments around the country didn’t comply with Title IX until Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act in the late 1980s. The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act in 1994 required colleges and universities to annually report data about their men’s and women’s programs.
President George Bush was accused of trying to weaken Title IX in 2002 when he set up a commission to study it, but the group supported the law. Then President Barack Obama in 2010 got rid of the federal “clarification” that colleges and universities only had to use an email survey to prove they were meeting participation requirements.
Now Title IX is dealing with sexual harassment and sexual violence issues and provides protection against discrimination for LGBTQ students.
Richard Lapchick of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport told the MSR that he believes Title IX will survive the current political divisiveness. “I think women have a strong enough voice and the women athletics community is [such a] powerful force that it would be very hard to eliminate it.”
“I’m extremely grateful” for Title IX, says WNBA player Alana Beard. “The privilege of playing at the high school level, then after that getting a scholarship for college and getting an unbelievable education at the university — none of that would have been possible without Title IX.”
Fellow WNBAer Nneka Ogwumike proudly noted that she and her three sisters, including Chiney, who also plays in the league, attended “great institutions” and their parents “didn’t have to pay a nickel for the four of us to go to school,” thanks to Title IX.
Title IX, now 45 years old, must remain diligent in striving for athletic equity for all.
The entire NCAA report can be read and downloaded on NCAA.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Black local news
Help amplify Black voices by donating to the MSR. Your contribution enables critical coverage of issues affecting the community and empowers authentic storytelling.