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.
athletes profiles by Nancy Bartosek
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
Congress passed a package of education amendments to federal civil rights
Title IX, mandated equal opportunity for the sexes across a range of educational
issues, but had its most sweeping impact in varsity athletics.
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.
establishes three criteria for demonstrating gender equity.
the relative number of varsity participation opportunities must be "substantially
proportionate" to the institution's male and female undergraduate enrollments.
that, the institution must demonstrate a "continuing history of expansion"
in varsity opportunities for women.
short of even that, the institution must show that the "interests and
abilities" of women toward varsity athletics are being accommodated.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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 That'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.' "
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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.
men on the field
TCU administrators point out, and perhaps rightly so, that there are actually
three genders when considering Title IX:
when factoring the pigskin into the proportionality equation, only 9 percent
of all Division IA schools meet the "gender proportionality" requirement
of Title IX.
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
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."
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."
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.
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.