In 1972, the United States Congress passed Title IX of the Educational Amendments. This instituted a law that would seriously affect all U.S. educational institutions’ sports programs. The law specified that it was unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. This meant, among other things, that boys and girls, and men’s and women’s sports programs would have to receive equal funding and support under the new law.
The law was passed in a time when feminist-inspired movements in many countries around the world were fighting for equality for women. While Title IX was a law directed at equality in education in general, it is sports programs that received the most attention. This was perhaps because of the visibility of sports and the prominent place they play, especially in American post-secondary education. Initially, Title IX met with mixed reviews. Especially vocal in opposition to the law were those who had a lot invested in men’s sports programs in the bigger educational institutions. Also, those that had administered male sports programs for years felt that the changes necessary to conform to Title IX’s standards would be difficult and expensive.
In the aftermath of Title IX, a battle emerged between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and a group that had administered women’s sports, the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Girls and Women (AIAW). The NCAA had avoided equalization for years, being devoted almost exclusively to men’s sport. In fact, it was in opposition to the NCAA that the AIAW formed in the first place. However, with federal funding now legally devoted to equalization, the NCAA made an about-turn and suddenly supported equalization. In what many consider to be an obvious and unfortunate power move, the NCAA absorbed the AIAW. The long-term effects of this move were to wrestle control of women’s sport out of the hands of women. The AIAW was administered by women for women; however, with the take-over the administration of women’s sport fell into the hands of men.
Title IX did not manage to equalize funding between the sexes, at least not at first. The legislators of Title IX probably couldn’t imagine the resistance to equalization in sport that would emerge. Nor did they probably realize the extent of male privilege in school sport, especially at the upper, more elite levels. Almost thirty years after the legislation, there is still not equalization in many cases, although an increasing number of schools have fallen in line with the law.
Today, women’s sport has achieved a much higher level of respectability and support in schools. However, there is still resistance to complete equalization, and female-supportive administrators continue to fight legal battles in support of girls’ and women’s participation in sport.