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messin’ with dem boyz whoz wants to play sports. Charts: The State of Women’s Athletics, 40 Years After Title IX

“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.”

Bernice Sandler, who helped draft the legislation back in 1972recently told ESPN, “The only thought I gave to sports when the bill was passed was, ‘Oh, maybe now when a school holds its field day, there will be more activities for the girls.'” During the Senate hearings on the bill—aside from one Senator’s crack about coed football which drew hearty guffaws—sports weren’t mentioned at all.

My, how things change. Forty years later, despite the important impact it’s had in other areas, from math and science education to the rights of pregnant students, Title IX is best known for transforming women’s athletics. In 1972, just 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; today, about two in five do, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. The number of women playing at the college level has skyrocketed by more than 600 percent. (Incidentally, these days coed football teams aren’t a joke either.)

Yet progress towards gender equity in sports has been uneven and incomplete. Here are five charts showing what’s changed—and what hasn’t—since Title IX’s passage in 1972.

At the heart of it, when you get through all the gender stereotyping and social backwardness (easy, no?) these days, the big issue is about money. Sharing the pie. About how to divide a limited pie to feed various mouths. And everyone knows that Athletic Directors (overwhelmingly male) make the money decisions. And (mostly) they’re not interested in equity. If they were, there would be no need for Title IX.

So, when the male AD decides that the last 10 football players – the ones who never get in to the game – are more important than, say, the best 10 male wrestlers, or the 5 fabulous female fencers… Well, that’s not the fencers’ fault because they’ve somehow developed an “interest” fencing because they caught a glimpse of Mariel Zagunis. Or the wrestlers’ fault because they’ve somehow developed an “interest” wrestling having  caught a glimpse of Rulon Gardner. It is a choice that ADs are making because they’re scared of football.

So, while I understand that the whimpy, lazy default is to blame women for having the temerity to be interested in the higher education opportunities that sports scholarships offer, I’d be more impressed if folks like Doug at the Deseret grew a set (so to speak) and looked at the facts and didn’t hide behind his threatened ego. I guess we know who Nikes “Voices were talking about:

I’m not saying the choices are easy — especially in these economic times when educators should really be looking carefully at what they’re spending on athletics and why. But lazy reporting and opinionating gets us nowhere. Women and men “just wanna play ball.” What’s the best way to help all of them do that?

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