Women, sports, and Title IX (male point of view)

by David Morain

When the Educational Amendments of 1972 were enacted, Title IX was set in place to effectively end sex discrimination in education. Women were finally going to receive equal federal aid for school and in sports. It is the later presupposition that has created so much controversy over the past few decades due to its mandated equality.

Men’s programs began to be cut from athletic departments. Gender quotas began to be looked at more than genuine interest in a sport. This begs the question: How can legislation that was meant to deal with gender inequality in a sincere fashion incite so much heated controversy?

The roots of the problem lie within the assumption that women and men are equally interested in sports. It isn’t an institution’s role to create demand where it doesn’t exist. I think that intramurals would be an excellent barometer for the interest in sports of the respective sexes. If you take a look at the number of men’s intramural teams as compared to the number of women’s teams, it comes out as 23 to four. In fact, due to lack of teams, the women’s intramural cup league has been combined with the women’s open. If this would adhere to Title IX rhetoric, then men at Simpson College would outnumber women by a ratio of 6-to-1.

In this inane pursuit of exact equity, more than 400 men’s teams have been left by the wayside. Of that number, 171 have been wrestling programs. Proponents of Title IX argue that no one is forcing colleges and universities to cut sports like wrestling, they simply choose to keep sports such as football and basketball because they generate money. This is true, but there is a good reason behind the action.

Sports like football and basketball are often relied upon to fund the women’s teams. It’s not a question of sexism, it’s a matter of realism that most people would rather spend the afternoon at a football game than a women’s lacrosse match. Funds that are generated by the more popular sports are used to purchase uniforms, equipment and other necessities for women’s teams that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.

The idea behind Title IX is a good one. There should be equality on and off the field. However, people shouldn’t look to the government to create a desire in women to participate in sports. Many casualties can result from this type of “equality-by-mandate” thinking.

Due to forced equity, Iowa State had to cut its long standing baseball program a couple of years ago so it could keep its women’s gymnastics team. Is this right? There has got to be a way to promote the opportunities for women without forgoing those of men. Title IX should do away with its proportionality approach and look toward a reality approach.