Title IX turns 40

An analysis of equality in the world of sports

This year marks the 40th anniversary of legislation put into place that drastically changed university sports programs forever – Title IX. Created in 1972, the legislation bans gender discrimination within athletics. The regulations require all schools to adhere to special standards concerning women’s sports.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, an advocacy group founded in 1974 by tennis superstar Billie Jean King, the Title IX Act states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Parallel — Equal opportunity for women's athletics. Photo credit: Elliot Mosher

In order to maintain federal funding, universities must provide athletic opportunities proportional to the ratio of residential male and female students. In other words, if a school with a population of 75 percent women offers 12 NCAA sports, nine of them must be women’s, to provide women with an equal opportunity to participate in sports if they choose.

Liberty University athletics are NCAA Division I and consist of 20 teams. According to a fact sheet on libertry.edu, Liberty’s residential population is 51 percent female and 49 percent male. Although the ratio is close to 50-50 now, at times it has been difficult to adhere to these specific standards. Liberty University has had to make changes in the past to keep within the requirements set by the Title IX Legislation.

In order to comply with this federal law, three new women’s sports have been added to Liberty’s athletic program in recent years. According to the Title IX statement on libertyflames.com, women’s lacrosse was added in 2009, women’s swimming in 2010 and women’s field hockey in 2011.

In addition to the new women’s sports, the Flames were forced to subtract one of its men’s programs in 2011. According to the Liberty Flames Club Sports website, Liberty’s wrestling team was reclassified as a club sport following the 2011 season.

While this change brought much contention when first put into place, 61 new female participants have been added. According to the Title IX statement on libertyflames.com, the growth of the new programs will bring the number of new female participants to 80.

Failure to adhere to the strict standards of Title IX can cause serious consequences within university athletics. The Women’s Sports Foundation states that federal funds will be withdrawn if the standards are not met.

According to libertyflames.com, the Liberty Athletics Department has specific procedures to maintain the standards outlined in Title IX. The first objective is to publicize the procedure so that the varsity status of a club team or individual can be requested. The sports request form can be found on the Liberty Flames website at any time.

Liberty’s athletic procedures also consist of conducting interest and ability surveys among the female population every two years to gauge interest levels for potential new teams.

Furthermore, the university actively researches the female sports participation at the high school level in their competitive region. Every year, athletics examines the female state championships being held in the top 10 states represented in Liberty’s student population.

Those interested in requesting the addition of a new intercollegiate sport can download the sport request form. Completed forms must be delivered to the director of athletics before a hearing can be held.

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