Title IX’s history in athletics

Published by , Date: May 2, 2019

When people thought about Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 20 years ago, they thought athletics, said Holly McCoy, a former lawyer and former assistant vice president of diversity and equal opportunity and Title IX Coordinator at Slippery Rock University.

“Most people nowadays think that Title IX is centered around sexual assault,” McCoy, 51, said. “I think that there is a general misunderstanding surrounding the general population that Title IX used to, and still does, play a major factor in how college athletics are operated.”

Title IX is widely considered to be authored in large part by Rep. Patsy T. Mink, of Hawaii, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Adopted and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972, Title IX can be understood as a three-pronged test, said Paul Lueken, SRU Director of Athletics.

“One is that you are meeting the current needs and interests of the student body and underrepresented sex, which in most cases in women,” Lueken, 58, said. “The second test is showing that the program has showed a recent history in the past 5 to 10 years to make strides to add opportunities for women. The third test is proportionality, which looks at whether student-athlete participation mirrors the general student body enrollment.”

Lueken highlighted that a particular lawsuit against the university about 13 years ago was a wakeup call for the university and how it followed Title IX going forward. In 2006, SRU cut several of its NCAA Division II Sports, including men’s and women’s swimming and water polo, men’s golf, tennis and wrestling, said Lueken, who has been SRU’s director of athletics since 1994.

A December 2009 article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported 12 student-athletes who were members of the women’s water polo and swim team originally opened the complaint against the university. Lueken said the university president at the time, Robert M. Smith, took the complaint and used it to help enact change on the university.

“President Smith made the ultimate decision to cut the programs,” Lueken said. “Everybody involved with the process was disheartened at the decision. [Smith] used the situation to put the university in check to make sure it followed Title IX in all regards.”

Lueken said that at the moment, the university doesn’t have any official plans to instate any more sports to the university.

“There have been some alumni groups that have talked to us to see what it would take to reinstate some of those programs,” Lueken said. “But we, as the university, do not have the funds to do that. An additional sport would have to be funded through alumni funds, which can be difficult to do because it would have to be endowed for a long period of time. We don’t want to add a sport that would only exist for a couple of years.”

Lueken said from a Title IX standpoint, if the university added 28 more spots to men’s athletics, then the university would have to add 28 spots to women’s athletics. Currently, SRU’s athletics are equal in terms of unduplicated counts of student-athletes, Lueken said.

“In terms of participation, where track and field competes in an indoor season, as well as in an outdoor season, the student-athletes are considered duplicated,” Lueken said. “Because of that, we have more women than men competing in track. The duplicated counts of participation are allowed, within the terms of meeting the percentages of meeting the student-body enrollment.”

Lueken highlighted that the university and the NCAA utilize something known as a “laundry list” to help ensure Title IX is continually being met. It ensures that both men’s and women’s sports are supplied with the same quality uniforms and equipment.

“We have a contract with ADIDAS, so everyone who competes in our programs wears ADIDAS,” Lueken said. “It costs more to equip a football player than it does a soccer player, regardless of whether they are male or female. Each team receives the same per diem on the road for hotel expenses and food. It’s all per-person amounts, so if we have 25 people going on the road versus 75 people going on the road, each individual receives the same amount of money for expenses.”

Lueken said one of the more challenging areas to be in compliance with Title IX is through scholarship dollars.

“Right now our scholarships are 50/50,” Lueken explained. “The biggest issue we face with equality in our scholarships is offsetting the football costs. The way that we meet Title IX and have a successful football programs is by having three more sports for women than we do for men.”

Andrea Miller, assistant athletic director for compliance and senior woman administrator, said she files an Equity in Athletics and Disclosure Act (EADA) every year that breaks down all the numbers for the university to make sure the university is in compliance with Title IX.

“I really just look to make sure that everything is proportional within the sports,” said Miller, 29. “In my opinion, most of the schools that are required to follow Title IX are doing a great job.”

Miller said there are always areas of improvements that institutions can make to effectively meet Title IX. Since the lawsuit a few years back, SRU has corrected some of the issues that were not always paid attention to before, Miller said.

“I always think that there is room to improve Title IX,” said Miller, who is a former associate director of compliance at the Ohio State University. “It’s one of those things where we have made great progress from where athletic programs were 20 years ago, but at the same time, improvements can always be made, that much will always be true.”

According to law, any college that receives federal funding must be in compliance with Title IX, McCoy said.

“For a school like Grove City (College), they have deliberate decision not to accept any government money, so they are legally allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex,” McCoy explained. “Grove City falls within a very small and specific category because of this. Schools like Thiel or Westminster or Notre Dame still receive federal aid, so they must comply with Title IX.”

McCoy said typically the schools that do not follow Title IX are smaller, Christian schools that have their own sets of codes and standards that they expect their students and faculty to live up to.

SRU Student Government Association Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion-elect, and FMLA President Maggie Calvert said from what she has seen, although the university’s athletic department has said it looks to ensure equality in athletics, she believes there needs to be some sort of education among student-athletes about Title IX.

“Women’s sports on campus always seem to be less important to the general student population,” said Calvert, 22 and a political science, philosophy and gender studies triple major. “The whole Title IX process for college athletics needs to have more transparency so that more people, particularly freshman, can understand the importance of it.”


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