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Title IX 40 years later

By: Jim Linsdau/Sports Editor News Messenger/Placer Herald
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For many, Title IX has faded into sports genre along with ?Do you believe in miracles?? and ?I?m going to Disneyland!? Initially, Title IX was part of an education amendment signed into law in 1972. Most believe it was a simple matter of offering women equal opportunity to participate in sports and the rest history. However, there is a much greater story behind it as presented in ESPN?s recent broadcast of ?The Battle of Title IX.? Today girl?s (high school) and women?s (college) sports are taken pretty much for granted but there are those who remember the fight that came with Title IX. It?s a prime example of legislation enacted with little attention paid to unintended consequences. Title IX was plugged into civil rights legislation unsuspecting of the firestorm it would raise in the arena of sports. It was intended to prevent gender discrimination in education programs receiving federal assistance; few anticipated the controversy that followed. In spite of its flaws, Title IX not only opened the doors for women to participate in a wider variety of athletics but also gave women a chance to earn scholarships, grants and even lucrative professional contracts unheard of 40 years ago. Donna Tofft, Lincoln High School athletic director, said Title IX gave her, and the sports she played at Sac State, a real boost. She said it raised coaching, training and women?s facilities to a whole new standard. ?There was a boy?s gym and a girl?s gym,? Tofft said of the way things were before Title IX. ?Now the gyms are the same. That?s a whole other level.? The changes didn?t come without a price ? and price became the biggest issue. Advocates argued women?s sports would damage men?s programs ? and to some extent it did. To balance the two, some men?s sports had to be sacrificed to stay within the school?s budget; hardest hit were cross country, indoor track, golf and tennis. However, proponents argued that the lack of funding was more the symptom of a deeper problem than trying to budget sports for two different genders. After all, many alumni associations were helping to keep most men?s sports viable. Today?s economy has made money an even greater issue but many contemporary programs have made fundraising a part of their activities. Many head coaches consider it as big an issue as preparing for an upcoming season. Even ESPN?s documentary indicated greater fiscal responsibility was needed without placing one sport, or gender, ahead of another. Women?s and girl?s sports have come a long way and the benefits are obvious. In a recent report it showed that over the past 40 years the female numbers participating in athletics has increased 979 percent. Tofft said she has seen a similar increase in participation at Lincoln High and an almost complete acceptance of girl?s athletics. ?There?s not the stigma of being a ?tomboy,?? Tofft said. ?Now (it?s) on equal footing. ?You go girl!? she added.