June 13, 2012 • Hockey

Keeping your department in Title IX compliance isn’t clear-cut

Title IX, the amendment that promotes equality in athletics, turns 40 years old on June 23. Although it has been around for decades, many coaches, athletes and athletic directors don’t fully understand what the law entails or how it affects their institution. So, here is a cheat sheet that will help you, and your department, stay out of legal trouble and promote equality on the field, track and court.

Photo: Baylor University

Institutions are found in compliance with Title IX if they fit into one of the three following prongs:

1. The percentage of male and female athletes is proportional to the percentage of male and female non-athletes.

2. The institution has an established history of practicing in the interest of the underrepresented sex and continues to promote its equality.

3. Institutions that have a disproportional number of male and female athletes (not equal in percentage, see No. 1) continue to enhance opportunities for the minority sex.

Did that clear everything up for you? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Just remember, Title IX does not patrol for equal number of male and female participants (although I’m sure most supporters would like to see higher/equal participation from women athletes). Its main goal, however, is to provide equal opportunity and treatment to individuals that are underrepresented.

According to Title IX, equal treatment does not mean equal financial support. Logistically, it’s impossible. Equipment for hockey and football is much more expensive than equipment for cross country and soccer. Schools cannot, however, provide higher-end equipment to a men’s team without providing the same standard of equipment to the women’s teams (or vice versa).

Further, practice and game facilities, coaches, athletic trainers and publicity must also be of equal quality.

This law is most confusing because there are no set standards for what is considered fair, equal or an enhancement of women’s sports. Within a single athletic department the athletic director, coaches and athletes can have different standards in each of these areas. It’s best if coaches, athletes and parents are aware of the rules of Title IX, then work together to establish their collective measure of “fair” in the overall department.

Failing to comply with Title IX puts an institution at risk of losing federal funding. More importantly, it denies a large group the opportunity to play and learn the life skills athletics provides. In honor of Title IX’s birthday, take a look at your athletic department, ask questions and make changes where needed.

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