At 40, Title IX has leveled playing field at BYU

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Marking the 40th year of its existence, Title IX has transformed athletics. There are 10 women’s athletic programs and only nine men’s sports at BYU. Women’s volleyball receives 12 scholarships while the men only receive 4.5 a year. At first glance it appears Title IX — the groundbreaking national gender equity legislation — has given women’s athletics an unfair advantage over men’s and some BYU student athletes feel that way while others see it as a blessing.

“If girls want to compete in sports like college and get a scholarship it is available to them,” said Nicole Warner, middle blocker for the BYU women’s volleyball team. “Before Title IX there were no opportunities like that for women and it has given me the chance to be a collegiate athlete.”

Title IX was originally created to end discrimination in educational programs on the basis of gender, which included athletics. Once passed, the law gave women a chance to grow and develop in an educational setting that was unavailable to them before.

“Title IX presented thousands of women with the opportunity to compete previously where there was gender discrimination,” said Janie Penfield, senior women’s administrator and associate athletic director at BYU. “Women were not afforded the opportunity to be collegiate athletes. They had the choice between cheerleading and tennis and that was it.”

The differences in scholarship numbers between men’s and women’s sports derives from the limits the NCAA has put on athletic programs to remain in compliance with Title IX. Every year, the football team is allowed 85 scholarships and the men’s basketball team awards 13. With this many scholarships exclusively given to men’s athletics, a balance has to be created for the women’s sports. Men’s sports such as soccer, lacrosse, and rugby remain club sports to keep up with Title IX and NCAA rules.

“It is definitely unfair,” said Romy Lakip, a member of the BYU men’s soccer team. “Unless you play football or basketball it’s nearly impossible to get a scholarship, much less a full scholarship. Right now at BYU it is ridiculous because soccer especially would bring in a lot of money as opposed to golf or tennis.”

Since there is not a women’s sport that requires as many scholarships as football, more scholarships are given per women’s team than to the smaller men’s programs. The differences in scholarships has created some problems for men’s athletics because football is included in their scholarship count. There are 4.5 scholarships given to the men’s tennis program and 8 to the women’s,  9.9 to the men’s swim and dive team compared to the 14 women receive, and 12.6 for the men’s cross country/track and field team, whereas the women’s squad gets 18 at BYU. As a result, the fairness of Title IX continues to be debated among those affected by it.

“I completely agree with the morals and ethics and thought behind Title IX,” said Robb Stowell, an opposite hitter on the men’s volleyball team. “I think that women are just as capable to play as men, if not more capable than men. However, I believe that the execution of [Title IX] in athletics shows favoritism towards women.”

However, men student athletes may have other options that level out the playing field between them and the women student athletes.

“The fairness started at birth and you had a choice of what sport you wanted to play and you chose to play a sport that does not offer as many scholarships,” Penfield said. “If a full-ride scholarship was the ultimate goal for a male athlete, they should have chosen to play football or basketball, which are societal priorities and where there is a better opportunity to receive a scholarship. We get to chose what sport to pursue and that choice had to be made, but your gender is something you cannot choose.”

Whether it shows favoritism or not, Title IX has done one thing that can not be disputed. It has revolutionized women’s athletics and has provided women with both educational and athletic opportunities that were not previously available to them.

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