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The Slow Track
Alexander Wolff
September 28, 1992
Two decades have elapsed since Title IX banned gender discrimination in federally funded schools, yet equity for women in high school and college sports remains elusive
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September 28, 1992

The Slow Track

Two decades have elapsed since Title IX banned gender discrimination in federally funded schools, yet equity for women in high school and college sports remains elusive

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My Uncle Ebenezer isn't a bad guy. From his midsection, which spills generously over the lip of his Sansabelt slacks, you might guess correctly that he's a college lineman gone slightly to seed. He's loyal and full of pluck, and he tells stem-winding tales about his days in the Big Ten trenches. It's just that sometimes he's as thoughtful as a one-celled animal.

Uncle Eb stumbles several steps down the evolutionary staircase at the simple mention of Title IX, the federal law that has expanded enormously women's opportunities to play sports. In an effort to comply with Title IX after it was enacted 20 years ago, many high schools and colleges scrambled to start athletic programs for girls and women. A few even treated female athletes to resources more or less in line with those afforded to males.

My uncle has never accepted any of this. He likes to call Title IX "Entitled to," as in, "They think they're entitled to this, they think they're entitled to that." I first uttered the phrase gender equity in his presence several years ago, and Uncle Eb, his neck turning crimson, then his jowls chartreuse, finally his brow a mottled mauve, took little solace from my assurances that most schools were largely ignoring Title IX and doing so with impunity. So I should have known what was irking him the other day when he flung the newspaper down in disgust. (You can tell Uncle Eb in the following colloquy; he tends to speak in italics.)

Let me guess. You're upset because USA Today broke the news about your hemorrhoids and you wanted to keep it private.

Impertinent, just like your father. No, it's this damned Title IX gender-equity baloney. Just more Woodstock-era social engineering, being treated as if it's done some good.

Yeah, damn that Title IX. Signed into law 20 years ago by the original wild-eyed left-wing social engineer himself, Richard Nixon. In Title IX, Uncle Sam basically said that an educational institution receiving federal funds can't discriminate on the basis of sex, in sports or anything else. And what does Uncle Ebenezer say?

I say all that gender-bending federal folderol hardly merits celebration.

You wouldn't let Title IX's birthday get under your skin if you picked that paper up again, Uncle Eb. You'd see that women aren't doing a whole lot of celebrating. The NCAA recently conducted a survey on gender equity, and its results were discouraging. Women make up more than half of all college students in the country, yet they make up only a third of athletes in Division I colleges, and not much more in other schools. And they receive only one in three athletic scholarship dollars. Look at operating budgets of college athletic departments, and women get only one in every five dollars. Look at recruiting budgets, and it's even less than that.

Come on. Football makes the money. It already pays so girls with sticks can flounce around in skirts. Why should it pay more?

How can football possibly pay for women's sports? Football can't even pay for itself. It grosses a lot of money but rarely makes any. In 1989 only about 13 percent of the NCAA's 524 football programs covered their expenses. Colorado's football team lost more than $800,000 in 1990, the year it shared the national championship with Georgia Tech.

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