Title IX: Helping or hindering college sports?

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Elaine Michaelis accepted a teaching and coaching position at BYU in 1961. She was named the coach of the basketball team, the softball team, the field hockey team and the volleyball team. For the first 10 years of her time at BYU, the women athletes had very little visibility on campus.

The girls would do their own thing in the Richards Building gyms. They would hold sports days, where teams from around the area would come together and play all the different sports. They didn’t get there in buses or vans, the coaches would drive the players in their own cars. The uniforms they used were the white shirts and shorts that all students were given by the university to use for physical education classes.

“At that time, it was us playing to have a good time,” Michaelis said. “But we were not recognized on campus the same way that the men’s teams were.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was written to end discrimination based on race, religion, color and national origin, but it said nothing in regards to the equality between men and women. This all changed when Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana introduced Title IX to the senate in 1972. Becoming a law on June 23, 1972, the future of women in athletics changed.

“We were all thrilled when the legislation was passed,” Michaelis said. “But it was still a slow process. They still needed to define what it meant and how it affected major universities and athletics.”

The biggest problem facing universities at this time, is to make sure that they are equal on the basis of proportionality and opportunity. Proportionality means there are equal scholarship opportunities for men and women.

As the case is everywhere, one of the big decisions to be made is what to do with the allocated funds made available to the athletic program. Back in 1999, the school had a decision to make. The school added women’s soccer and softball and cut men’s wrestling and gymnastics.

“Those decisions were made because instead of adding four more women’s teams and having a broader based program, we chose to fund a smaller number of teams instead of a larger number of teams,” said Janie Penfield, associate athletic director/senior woman administrator. “At BYU, we work hard for our teams so that they can be nationally competitive and we aim to do that.”

That decision has helped BYU to better meet the standards set for Title IX and allow the university to use its resources in the best ways possible.

This still has been a problem across the country with schools slowly meeting the standards of proportionality between men and women.

“Schools are only checked once every so often,” Penfield said. “And if they can show that they are making progress towards equality and proportionality, then they are not penalized for not being in compliance with Title IX.”

Many people believe Title IX is the only reason there are not more men’s sports across the country. But in reality, the root of the problem goes beyond that. The NCAA has put restrictions on how many scholarships each sport has allowed and they can’t go over that limit or they will be penalized. Also, the different universities have only a certain amount of resources available to spend on the different sports and they will put that money into the sports that make money, usually football and men’s basketball.

The positives of Title IX definitely outweigh the perceived negatives.

Forrest Hale was a gymnast at the University of Utah before Title IX was enacted. When he was a gymnast, gymnastics were taught in elementary school and in high school. But, no one who went to the Olympics for the USA ever placed well.

“One of the side effects of Title IX was that most universities dropped their gymnastics teams,” Hale said. “That forced a lot of the men to go to club teams to do gymnastics.”

The product of that change was n 1984 the men’s gymnastic team won gold for the first time. That team was captained by Peter Vidmar who is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There have also been schools who have been able to add more and more programs to their athletic department. Ohio State for example continues to add sports because of the amount of money the school brings in from athletics.

As time goes on, more and more schools are recognizing the need for equality not only in athletics but in the workforce and in the classroom. The biggest issue facing most institutions is the resources they have available and how they want to spend their money. The other would be a decision to be fair to everyone.

Title IX has been a major stepping stone in bringing equality to men and women. It has shaped the way for many people to have opportunities they would never have had in the past. It allowed Penfield to pursue volleyball in college and it allowed Michaelis to have more equal accommodations for the teams she was coaching. Title IX has affected the whole country and hopefully the future brings more opportunities for growth in the future.

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