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A Look At 35 Years of Title IX

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 8:51 AM

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In 1972, Title IX was added to the Civil Rights Act. The amendment states that it's illegal to exclude someone from school activities based on gender. The original amendment didn't specifically mention athletics, but sports equality is Title IX's lasting legacy. In the 35 years since it was passed, there have been big changes in opportunities and attitudes toward women's sports. ideastream's Dan Bobkoff takes a look now at how Ohio schools and athletes have been affected by the law.

If you want to know how much things have changed for women’s sports in schools, talk to some male athletes.

Aaron Pancratz: I have a girlfriend who plays softball and basketball and I go to most of the games to support ‘em.

That’s Aaron Pancratz, a junior at Nordonia High School who plays football and basketball. His football teammate Jordan Maven agrees. He says it’s great when he meets girls at school who play sports.

Jordan Maven: I love athletics and athletes so it would be something we have in common and I think that’s a plus.

Susan Ziegler: 35 years ago what you would have heard is women don’t belong on basketball courts, swimming pools or athletic fields.

Susan Ziegler is a sports psychologist at Cleveland State University. She says it’s a sign of hope that high school boys are so supportive of today’s women athletes. In fact, for the Nordonia players, Title IX is ancient history to students like Beth Andreseck.

Beth Andreseck: I honestly haven’t heard of Title IX before today.

Andreseck, a senior, plays basketball and softball at Nordonia. The school’s athletic director Rob Eckenrode says things have improved enough that students don’t have to think about Title IX.

Rob Eckenrode: These kids we talked to today, they were never exposed to that kind of issue, so the fact that they were not greatly aware of Title IX didn’t surprise me at all.

But that’s troubling to CSU’s Ziegler who says the opportunities for female athletes still lag behind those of males’.

Susan Ziegler: The old warhorses who fought for Title IX are now looking to pass the torch to younger people looking to keep the drive alive for equity in sport. And, the younger kids who are living their dreams in terms of athletics, and they don’t realize the battles to get them there. Nor do they realize the remaining battles left to be fought.

Some schools are still struggling to comply with Title IX. Ohio University in Athens cut its varsity men’s swimming and diving, men’s indoor and outdoor track, and also women’s lacrosse back in January. Ohio U’s athletic director Kirby Hocutt says there was no other way for the state school to meet Title IX requirement and keep costs down.

Kirby Hocutt: It’s a very drastic move, but we had been over the past two years, we have in fact cut our budgets across the board.

Hocutt says he doesn’t blame Title IX for the end of the sports programs. Rather, he says, the costs of running a Division 1-A sports program is rising fast and the school has to stay within its means.

Kirby Hocutt: We’re in a stressed market. Particularly at Ohio University as state funding has decreased over the past number of years and our self-generated revenue is not even keeping up with inflation.

Hocutt’s counterpart at Kent State University agrees. Laing Kennedy is athletic director there.

Laing Kennedy: When decisions are made, most of the time these tough, difficult decisions are based on financial considerations and not equity issues.

35 years since Title IX passed, there is equity on the track at Nordonia High School. Both the boys and girls teams are practicing together-and there’s about the same number of boys and girls there.

Training together is partly a cost-saving move for schools: they need just one coach to warm up both teams. But it also shows how much of a non-issue equity in sports has become for athletes at high schools like Nordonia. Beth Andreseck, the basketball player, says her team gets the same attention as the boys’.

Beth Andreseck: Our team made it to the district semi-finals and it seemed like everybody in the school came out supporting us, and we had a big cheering section. And even though we had a rough game, they supported us through the end and it was just cheering and loud. It was the first time we experienced something like that and it was a lot of fun.

On that day at least, Title IX worked. 

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