Quite a bit is being made this summer about the anniversary of the controversial law called Title IX. In addition to ADN's front-page article in June, Sports Illustrated recently published an entire issue celebrating the antiquated statute, and ESPN aired a special program dedicated to Title IX.
That former soccer player and outspoken Title IX advocate Julie Foudy was chosen to host the program illustrates the one-sidedness with which the issue is covered by the media. Foudy's "panel" consisted of a kangaroo court of former women's soccer players and Title IX advocates -- hardly an impartial staff for what turned out to be a dubiously conceived, and even more poorly executed, half-hour of television.
Unfortunately, this failure to discuss both sides of the issue has become par for the course when covering Title IX. ADN's article is the perfect example of this negligence: the article alluded to the dark side of Title IX -- the fact that hundreds of male sports teams have been eliminated as a direct result of it -- but instead decided to excuse the statute, much as its feminist proponents do, by using football as the scapegoat.
What SI, ESPN, and ADN consistently fail to mention is that Title IX, far from "leveling the playing field," as its proponents like to claim, has developed into a federally mandated form of reverse discrimination. While Title IX was a noble and much-needed law when it was passed, it eventually became an excuse for athletic directors to cut costs by eliminating non-revenue producing men's sports. Non-mainstream sports like wrestling, swimming, and cross country have been decimated in the past few decades, and it has all been supported and incentivized by Title IX.
Making matters worse, Vice President Joe Biden recently announced that colleges will be required to follow stricter measures to prove that they are complying with Title IX. Biden's announcement is an unfortunate step backward in the challenge to find legitimate equality. The new measure rolls back reforms that had allowed universities to perform the seemingly pragmatic step of surveying its student body to determine the level of interest in athletics before establishing the exact proportion of athletes that should be female. This forced rigidity rather than encouraging colleges to create more opportunities for aspiring athletes, in fact forces them to take ever- more dire actions to ensure their compliance with the Title IX quota system. And to be sure, Title IX is nothing if not a quota system: No matter the number of athletic opportunities that are eliminated, the important thing, in the black-and-white, us vs. them mentality of Title IX and its proponents, is that the ratio of female athletes to male athletes matches that of the school's enrollment.
The sad thing about Title IX is that no one benefits from its if-we-can't-have-it-no-one-can mentality. A 2007 study by the College Sports Council studied athletic participation at universities between 1981 and 2005. The study found that the number of male athletes per university dropped by 6 percent during that time period, and the number of male sports teams dropped 17 percent! While non-mainstream sports like wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, and swimming were hit hardest by these cuts, even perpetual cash cows like football and basketball experienced declines during this time frame.
Title IX proponents like to claim that the law is responsible for increases in female athletic opportunities. Not only is this misleading, it wholly ignores the great cost to male athletes and to American sports in general. In the 1990s, for every female opportunity that was created (though not necessarily by Title IX), 3.4 male opportunities were lost. The average university has 8.7 women's sports teams and only 7.8 men's teams.
At what point will we recognize that Title IX is no longer doing the job it was meant to do? It is not women's sports teams that need to be protected anymore; it is the non-revenue producing men's sports that are being systematically eliminated as a result of Title IX.
Martin Byrne is a former wrestler and soccer player who attended Eastern Washington and Montana State universities -- neither of which has varsity wrestling or men's soccer programs.