Spring 1998
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TCU Magazine Feature


A full 25 years since the enactment of Title IX, the civil rights legislation calling for equal athletic opportunities for men and women student athletes, it is clear that the ladies have come a long way, baby -- but the finish line is still a ways off.

By Dennis Alexander
athletes profiles by Nancy Bartosek

Goalkeepter. When Kari Walsh announced several years ago that she was going to be a traveling disc jockey, her family laughed. Within the year she not only had her own equipment, she had a thriving business. The determined California native now predicts she will be tending goal for a WAC championship soccer team within the next three years. That team would be TCU, of course. And no one is laughing now. After losing their first five games, the true-grit Lady Frogs went 10-5 for the season, earning a berth in the WAC Championships. "I'm really excited about next season; we'll be right in the heartof it," said Walsh, an engineering major. "I think by the time I leave (TCU), we will definitely have made a mark in the soccer community. "In fact, I think we did this year."

In 1972, Congress passed a package of education amendments to federal civil rights law.

One section, Title IX, mandated equal opportunity for the sexes across a range of educational issues, but had its most sweeping impact in varsity athletics.

When Title IX was enacted, only about 31,000 women competed at the college level. By 1996, college varsity participation had jumped to 123,000.

But if Title IX's effect has been sweeping, it has also been controversial. Many colleges simply cannot afford to bring funding for women's sports up to a comparable level with men's, so they pay for expanding the former by cutting the latter. Call it "robbing Peter to pay Paula." From 1995 to 1997, NCAA Divisions I and II added 5,800 female athletes, but cut 20,900 males.

Title IX establishes three criteria for demonstrating gender equity.

-- First, the relative number of varsity participation opportunities must be "substantially proportionate" to the institution's male and female undergraduate enrollments.

-- Failing that, the institution must demonstrate a "continuing history of expansion" in varsity opportunities for women.

-- Falling short of even that, the institution must show that the "interests and abilities" of women toward varsity athletics are being accommodated.

Net prophet The unpretentious silver cross that dangles from Annie Gant's collar is more than a casual comment. From her point of view (which, on the court, is explode, attack, take no prisoners), it represents a strength that helped her lead the scrappy Volleyfrogs (in only the team's second season) to the WAC tournament this fall... and led to her being named TCU's most outstanding female athlete last year. "I know that ultimately things are not in my hands. I just do what I can and watch it unfold," Gant said. "I know that if you put your part into it, things really will work out." At only 5 feet and not quite 6 inches, Gant is a short player on a short team. It's a good thing she likes to take on challenges bigger than her. Like being one of three scholarship players expected to build a program from scratch last year. Or dealing with their 4-30 win-loss record that same year. But Gant said that's okay. On the court she knows she has to step out of her comfort zone, press past her limits and change even if she doesn't want to. And, of course, never, never give up. "I'm much louder on the court than in the realm of the real world," she admits with a penetrating gaze and ready smile. "Whoever goes to our games is going to see a fight. No matter what the score, we fight to the very last volley."

Critics say the biggest flaw with "substantial proportionality" is the assumption that males and females have a proportionately identical interest in playing varsity. They point to relatively low female participation rates of recent years in high school sports, where women face fewer institutional barriers because there is no big-money interest in men's programs. For the past 15 years, women have entered high school varsity at a rate of about 3 to 4 percent, while men have entered at double that rate: 6.5 to 8 percent. Two-thirds of the nation's high school athletes are men.

This would seem to indicate that proportionately more men than women are interested in playing varsity sports. Because Title IX mandates proportionate numerical results where actual gender interests are not proportionate, many say the law is a quota-based affirmative action program in disguise -- designed not merely to open the door of opportunity, but to engineer specific statistical outcomes.

The effect of differing sports-interest levels between the sexes is exaggerated at private schools, most of which have majority-female enrollments. Yet, more than 25 years after Title IX was enacted, 91 percent of Division I schools are still not in compliance with "substantial proportionality." Among the few that are, male students are in the majority. No schools with a majority-female enrollment are in compliance. Most -- like TCU, where 59 percent of undergraduates are women -- comply with the law through the other criteria defined by Title IX. But federal courts and the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights are now pressuring these schools for better progress toward proportionality.

Many complain that "substantial proportionality" also ignores the huge volume of male-designated resources consumed by football. Financially, "have" and "have-not" varsity programs are defined less by gender lines than by sport. At colleges with large, well-maintained football programs, the struggle for athletics resources is felt not only by women's programs, but by other men's programs as well.

Bare feats. When Tinesha Jackson-Hackney was little, she knew her bare feet could fly. Many a warm evening she and her mother would fling the tennies aside, put feet to pavement and run a race of generations down the middle of their Fort Worth street. Her mom always won. Until Jackson-Hackney turned 15, that is. That's when the then-national 4x100 relay high school champ flashed past Momma and toward a much more formidable future: the 2000 Olympics. The psychology senior has some help close by. Her husband of less than a year, George Hackney, a former TCU trackster himself, will be her personal trainer. In the meantime, TCU's 1996-97 female athlete of the year works toward a teaching certificate, often returning to the low-income roads she ran as a child, hopefully to show others the way to something she believes is better. "They say ŒThat's Little Jackson. She's doing good,'" she said. "They brag on me and say I'm one of the few that has made it. They don't know they can go to college too." "Little Jackson" now knows she's faster with her shoes on. She also knows from whom that speed comes from. "I don't think I'll ever stop running," she said, flashing a finish-line grin. "Except if the Lord says, 'Okay, it's time for you to sit.' "

Yet football is the only genuine money-making sport at about 40 percent of Division I colleges. Football profits are often used to help finance other men's and women's sports that operate at a loss. And women's programs typically run larger deficits than men's.

In 1995-96, that deficit nationally was $357 million in Division I alone. That same year, men's Division I programs turned a $252 million profit, mainly due to football. So killing off football tightens the purse strings for all other sports as well.

Even at schools where football is not a money-maker, it serves as a major marketing vehicle. Win or lose, a football team broadcasts a school's name in places where it would otherwise have no marketing presence, allowing recruitment of students from areas it would normally ignore. While few students choose a college because of its football program, market studies confirm that most students give more serious consideration to schools they've heard of before.

Name recognition is particularly critical for private schools, which are not nearly as large, well-known, or financially attractive as state-supported schools. Call it the "Notre Dame principle." No matter how stellar its academics, a school often gets its recognition through football.

Double dribblers. At face value, Jill and Amy Sutton are exactly alike. Yup, one package, two people, says Jill. "You're going to get us both -- but we're not going to be the same," Amy picks up, finishing the description. That's how it is with the Suttons. A thought starts, two identical blond heads nod, the other completes the notion. Same friends, same classes, same major (education), same favorite food (chicken fajitas), same hair style. And the same shooting success; Jill and Amy are the leading scorers on the most successful Lady Frog team ever. Occasionally they go their separate way -- they do have different boyfriends -- but never for more than an hour or two. More likely, the pair will feel a need to get away from everyone else, together. That unity provides an anchor of security, Jill said. "We're confident because we have each other," she explained. "We're not even as secure or confident when we're not on the court together," Amy admits. And, Jill clarifies, both would rather be part of a winning team than achieve personal success. "We both hate to lose."

While jettisoning football is not the answer to the gender equity dilemma, neither is abandoning Title IX. Apart from this law, most doors in varsity athletics would remain closed to women. Even now, with all of the progress women have made, they still have far to go. In 1995-96, Division I schools continued to award 62 percent of their $514 million in varsity scholarships to men. They spent nearly three times as much ($407 million to $137 million) recruiting male athletes as female.

So we need Title IX. But we need a Title IX that expands opportunities for women without cutting them for men. One alternative to base the "substantial proportionality" formula not on male and female undergraduate enrollments, but on the actual interest level in varsity participation by male and female undergrads as determined by periodic student surveys.

Match point. Annika Kjellgren (pronounced shell-gren) first picked up a racquet at age 7. By age 10 it was taking her throughout her native Sweden. In her teens she swung it in Europe for the Swedish National Team, winning national singles and doubles titles. And at TCU, with Academic All-American and WAC Scholar honors in her gym bag, life continues to be a contest at the net. But Kjellgren (pronounced shell-gren) knows that she will soon need to grip an altogether new game. "With only one semester to go, it's scary to think of not having tennis because it's been such a major part of my life," she said in her soft Scandanavian lilt. But as a double finance/management major with a Spanish minor (she also speaks four languages, is carrying a 3.78 GPA and served as a student analyst for the acclaimed Education Investment Fund), Kjellgren's future prospects are as solid as the aces she now serves. "I'm going to enjoy every minute of this semester so I can remember what (my tennis career) was like," she said. "But I don't want to be so caught up in doing that I forget the things that have meaning."

The means and methods used under Title IX to achieve gender equity must be realistic and reasonable. The only nonnegotiable should be the goal itself -- equal opportunity. Every yet-unborn Nancy Lopez, Jennifer Capriati, or Sheryl Swoopes must have opportunity to find her path to greatness.

Too many men on the field

Only half-joking, TCU administrators point out, and perhaps rightly so, that there are actually three genders when considering Title IX:

Male. Female. And football.

Indeed, when factoring the pigskin into the proportionality equation, only 9 percent of all Division IA schools meet the "gender proportionality" requirement of Title IX.

"Young women have the same right to compete as young men, and TCU has done its very best to see that right granted," said outgoing Athletics Director Frank Windegger.

"But when you have a 58 percent female student population, and Title IX calls for a proportional amount of female student athlete financial aid, thatıs impossible when you have 85 football scholarships."

Forefront. Angela Stanford doesn't remember her first swing (with a cut-down club somewhere around age 10). Or why at 13, maybe 14, she was bumped up to play 18 holes with the big girls. But she does recall that "all of a sudden" at age 15 -- and 16 and 17 and 18 -- she won the Fort Worth All City Girl's championship. And now the tenacious sophomore, WAC freshman of the year last season, has earned the right to stand among the top 10 players in the country. Some say she's just begun her tee box brilliance. By 2001 she plans to storm the pro tour. "To me, a golf club means opportunity. Amazing opportunity," she said, seriousness shading her world-by-the-tail eyes. "I wouldn't be here (at TCU) if it weren't for that golf club." She stumbles across that reality at odd times, like when her meal card is swiped through the Main's cash register. "Sometimes I look around and think how in the world do I deserve this?" said Stanford, who will likely be the first in her family to get a college degree. "It makes me work harder because it can be taken away as fast as it was given. That's my whole outlook on life. . . . I work really hard and don't ever think I'm doing this by myself because I'm not."

Nevertheless, TCU has had a game plan in effect for some time, and it grows bolder in the next few years:

-- The percentage of women athletes at TCU has increased from 32.2 percent in 1995 to 35.7 percent in 1997.

-- TCU has added six more women's scholarships in 1997-98, bringing the total to 65, while men's scholarships remain at 141.2.

-- By 1999-2000, 24 new athletic scholarships will have been added over a four-year period, all for women's sports.

-- TCU will conduct a survey of women students sometime this spring or next fall to help determine if a new women's sport such as softball should be added.

Talent pool. Jayme Brown's senior brother did not want his brat sister hanging around the Pecos High School swim team's pool. So she stopped hanging around, joined the team and went on to set still-unbroken high school records before becoming the first one in Pecos to compete in the state finals. And that's just one of many cross currents Brown has breaststroked through since joining TCU's swim troupe, in which she was named most-determined swimmer in 1995. Dropping into chilly, early-morning water only to drag yourself through 50-meter stretches of resistance for an hour or two? Yes. Brown calls it "refusing to give up on anything." She'll take that motto with her this summer when she competes in her first amateur triathlon, and adds Brown, should come in handy during grad school, the next step toward a marine ecology career. "I was an underdog when I came here," concludes Brown, "but I liked it. When people don't expect you to do well and you do, it's more gratifying."

Dennis Alexander is Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations in University Advancement. Since 1996, he has served on TCU's steering committee for NCAA Division I certification.