Today marks the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation requiring schools and universities to provide equal access and funding for boys and girls sports.

Thousands of girls have benefited from the law, and sports in America is better off because of it. Our country as a whole is better off because of it.

But in the 35 years of its existence, Title IX has been warped by a number of legal challenges, court interpretations and special interest groups. The law is no longer about gender equality in sports. It’s about making the Y chromosome less equal and the X chromosome more equal.

Some of those most active in Title IX enforcement aren’t content with providing equal access and funding to athletics. They want proportional participation. That means if 70 percent of a college’s enrollment is female (which, with the way enrollment figures are trending, won’t be unheard of in the near future), 70 percent of its students participating in sports must be female.

Forget about whether girls are more or less interested in sports than boys. It is the school’s job to create the interest.

In addition, these groups, led by the Women’s Sports Foundation, are calling on to stop the growth of boys’ sports, whether in funding or participation, until girls catch up. Apparently, it’s not enough that schools are cutting boys’ and men’s teams all across the country to get into compliance with Title IX. Opportunity is only allowed to knock on the girls’ locker room door until the cold, hard numbers line up.

Flexibility and common sense are not among Title IX’s strengths. It doesn’t account for walk-ons, transfers or academic eligibility. Revenue-generating sports such as football and basketball are weighed the same as non-revenue sports. Because of the roster size and money involved, football alone makes compliance extremely difficult. There is no female equivalent to football (and no consideration given to the fact that girls are allowed to participate in football), but this is ignored when the numbers are balanced.

It’s time to make Title IX more flexible. One way to do this is to connect opportunity to need. Because girls had so far to go to even come close to matching boys’ participation when the law was implemented, those enforcing it haven’t had to make that correlation. They should start doing that now. Schools should survey the student population to find out the level of interest in participation. That data should be a part of the formula. Then maybe we can start making Title IX fair for everyone.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.