MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics is meeting this week in our nation's capital to consider changes to the sports world's great gender equalizer, Title IX.
For 31 years, the law has prohibited sex discrimination in programs receiving federal funding.
For 31 years, the law has made a lot of women glad and a lot of men mad.
At the crux of the controversy is Title IX's "proportionality" standard. Educational institutions are required to make their percentage of female athletes mirror the female portion of the student body.
If the students are split, say, 55-45, then sports must be, too.
The creation of additional opportunities in athletics for girls and women has been an absolutely wonderful thing. They took up new sports, took them to higher levels of interest and continue to flourish, staying true to their amateur status and remaining free of the breaches committed by many big-time men's programs.
In many cases, unfortunately, progress came at the expense of others. To form a women's gymnastics program, the baseball team had to go.
Currently, if 45 percent of a school's population is male, then only 45 percent of the school's athletes can be male. Even if the number of students interested in and capable of competing is split 50-50.
That's a flaw -- the reason why Title IX needs to be loosened a bit.
No one is suggesting we pull a Dr. Emmett Brown, rev up the flying Delorian -- Great Scott! -- and return to 1955. Just looking for a way to prevent situations where kids are kept from participating because their school had too many male athletes.
I think the proportionality rule might've even done more good than harm for all these years. The shortstop who lost a college scholarship because of it won't agree with me, but -- hey -- how about his mom? Her only chance to play basketball in 7th grade was on the boys team or in the driveway.
That same shortstop's younger sister is now able to attend a big-time university free of charge in exchange for her basketball skills and maybe move on to play professionally if she's good enough.
But it's 2003. The proportionality standard's time has passed.
Sure, this argument would be more compelling to some if it didn't have a male name at the top of it, but please read on before savaging my inbox in protest.
Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow -- remember, the name is Debbie -- has proposed a 50-50 split with a slight leeway in percentage, regardless of the makeup of the student body.
Sounds like the best solution.
The gravest concern is one that's shared by many, including Gopher women's basketball coach Pam Borton. She thinks repeal of Title IX will negate the progress girls and women have made in athletics over the past three decades.
As wrong as it may be, the perennially powerful Gopher volleyball program will never come close to the second tier bowl-bound Gopher football team in the amount of money each brings back to the athletic department.
Altering Title IX doesn't mean that females will suddenly lose their chances to play sports. Not at all. The law's proportionality ingredient has simply fulfilled its purpose. Women's athletics, with the help of Title IX, have progressed to the point where a proportionality requirement isn't necessary anymore.
Consider in Minnesota the 13,000 fans roaring for Borton's Gophers in Williams Arena or the surging growth of girls high school hockey.
I don't think if the restrictions are changed, that some school is going to start squeezing out every last female athlete it can until it reaches the new male limit. Who, in this age, would have the arrogance or idiocy to carry out such a thing? Martha Burk would be the first one on their doorstep.
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