Play Unfair: Title IX Misconceptions, Lack of Knowledge and Campus Education

Katie A. Hubbard



Throughout much of our nation’s history, educational opportunities have not always been a possibility for women.  Even in the 20th Century as women and other minority groups gained freedoms they had never had before, education was never an equal playing field for men and women.  As recent as 1970, women still did not have the advantages that men had regarding a good education.  However, in 1972 Title IX was passed as a part of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  After this, many colleges and high schools had to change their focus to accommodate women and provide them with a chance in all areas.  The original meaning of the law was to prohibit discrimination based on sex at any educational institution receiving federal funding.

            Title IX has impacted the lives of women since it was passed and has also allowed for women to participate in sports at a higher level.  The future of Title IX is the future of women’s educational rights and also their rights to equal and fair opportunities in the male-dominated area of sports. This future is important to every female and in order to keep Title IX from being changed for the worse or pushed out by other interests, it is necessary to examine the law and find out what the general public knows about it.  If the public does not know about something, they cannot fight to keep it.  Also, the law can be interpreted in different ways and this has created controversy for the last 30 years about what it really implies.  These implications will determine the future of every woman and little girl in the United States and for this reason Title IX must be analyzed and supported.

            In 1975, the final components of the Title IX legislation were passed which regulated collegiate sports.  The first being financial aid in the form of athletic scholarships, the second being other benefits and opportunities such as facilities and equipment, and the last part being athletic participation opportunities.  Out of the last section came controversy over the three-part test that was the additional interpretation of the third component (Dubois, 1999).

After Title IX was passed in 1972 and then its’ regulations in 1975, further clarifications were needed to assess whether or not a school was in compliance with the law.  In 1979, a three-part test was put in place to determine whether or not colleges have enough opportunities for women.  The first part of the test is that colleges should have the same proportion of female students and female athletes.  The second states that colleges must have a “history and continuing practice” of expanding opportunities for women.  Finally, they must prove that they are “fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of women on campus” (Suggs, 2005).  Colleges must meet only one of the guidelines, but should strive to meet all of them.

The reason why the three-part test is controversial is the ambiguous language used and the reference to an “underrepresented sex” as opposed to the original language of Title IX which claimed equality for both sexes.  Also, some people have stated that the first part of the test which is the proportionality requirement is no different than a quota that has been ruled against by the Supreme Court when interpreting Affirmative Action.  Another criticism of the test and Title IX is that the assumption that the abilities and interests in sports are the same for women and men.  The article by Dubois (1999) claims certain surveys have concluded that females are less interested in sports than males, and this is problematic when male programs are being cut for female programs.

In response to these criticisms, Title IX activists explain that such wording as “underrepresented sex” is needed to fully implement equality at all educational institutions.  Although Title IX has been accused of a quota system, supporters would assert that the proportionality test is not a requirement if other areas of the test are met.  Allies of Title IX would argue that women could develop as much interest in sports if they were continuously afforded the same opportunities as men and were not discouraged by society against playing sports.  Title IX increases a female’s chance of being allowed or encouraged to play sports.  In addition, the number of male athletes has increased by about 2,700 between 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 and the number of men’s teams increased across all divisions (Suggs, 2005).

Overall statistics demonstrate how Title IX has affected the world of education and sports for women.  In 1971, 18 percent of women and 26 percent of men had completed four or more years of college, while in 1994, 27 percent of both men and women had earned a bachelor’s degree.  In 1972, women received 7 percent of law degrees; in 1994 women comprised 43 percent of law degrees!  In 1996, 2.4 million high school girls participated in sports as opposed to 300,000 in 1971.  The United States also has significantly higher percentages of female high school and college graduates than most modernized countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, and France (, 1997).

Current debate surrounding Title IX is over the report issued by the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics that was appointed by the Bush Administration in 2002.  Differing perspectives claim that the report focuses too much on the exclusion of certain men’s sports or that the report was well stated and changes need to be made to include the forgotten men’s sports (Dudley, 2002).  Julie Foudy, formerly a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, sent a letter to the Commission which explained her criticisms of the report.  In her statement, she claimed that women are still clearly the underrepresented gender and the report focused on the discrimination of certain male athletes more than female athletes (Foudy, 2003).   

Further fueling the controversy, in March 2005 the Department of Education delivered a clarification letter that would allow schools to use opinion surveys through email to establish whether or not they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of women on campus.  The critics of this express that “a non-response can be interpreted as a non-interest” (Brady, 2005).  Some members of the Commission were so displeased with the letter issued by the Department of Education, that they sent a letter to NCAA and NAIA schools across the nation asking them not to use the survey system.  Former commissioners Julie Foudy, Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame women’s basketball coach), Percy Bates (Michigan faculty athletic representative), and Donna de Varona (former Olympic swimmer) also signed the letter.

Another way that Title IX impacts current events is in certain collegiate rape trials.  In a few separate cases, females have sued under Title IX accusing that they were raped by football teams or football recruits and the school did nothing about it.  This happened in three separate cases at UAB, Oklahoma State, and the University of Colorado.  The women in the Colorado case are claiming that the school had done nothing after a similar incident in 1997.  In order for the women to collect damages, they must prove that the school knew about the inappropriate football issues and did nothing to change it; and that the harassment happened in an educational program (Brady, 2004).

Congress passed the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act in 1994 which required that institutions release data on the operation of men’s and women’s sports programs (Anderson, 2006).  Because of this act, the public has access to any college’s records about their monetary spending on men’s and women’s programs and also the statistics of participation.  At McKendree College, an NAIA school and the location where the survey was conducted, there are currently eight women’s varsity sports teams.  T he student enrollment at McKendree is 58% female and 42% male, while the number of female athletes is 133 and male athletes is 390.  The men’s teams receive 61% of athletically related student aid and women’s teams receive 39% of athletically related aid.

The total operating expenses for the men’s teams is $319,242 and for the women’s teams it is $184,246.  However, the per-participant average is $806 for males and $1270 for females.  These figures seem to put McKendree in compliance with Title IX; all except for the proportionality ratio which is the part of the test most schools struggle with.  NAIA schools especially struggle with this because of their generally high female enrollment.  If any school has a football team and high female enrollment, it will be difficult to meet the proportionality regulation.

The results of the current study will examine what students at McKendree know about Title IX and also how they feel about equal opportunities at McKendree.  The expectation is that most students do not know about Title IX and if they are female they will know more. Also, students will feel that women’s sports do not receive equal amounts of money compared with men’s sports.  Another hypothesis is that the majority of students will say that they do not answer surveys emailed to them.  Also being examined is the overall attitude of McKendree students about equality at their school.   Participants

            The participants in this survey were a group of 144 students from a small liberal arts college.  The sample was taken from students who were in Introduction to Psychology classes and also random students in upper-level psychology classes.  There were 55 male participants and 88 female participants.  Around 56% of the participants said they played a sport at their college and 43% claimed they did not, which may have an impact on what they know about Title IX.

Testing Materials

            A survey was designed by the researcher which was used to assess student’s knowledge and opinions of Title IX (See Appendix A).   Most of the test included a Likert Scale of 1 through 5 where students could say they strongly agree or disagree with a statement.  The instructions given thanked the participant and ensured confidentiality while they also explained how to take the survey.  The total amount of time it took to administer the survey was roughly 5 minutes.  A debriefing period followed where the administrator answered any question about the research or survey.


The research started by finding information on Title IX and the public’s perceptions about the law from other sources.  The actual survey was field tested in an upper-level psychology class and evaluated to limit experimenter bias.   The survey contained questions about what the participant knows about Title IX and how they feel about their own schools compliance with equality.  The statistical measure that will be used to determine the outcome of the surveys will be SPSS which will calculate means, correlations, differences, and similarities in the areas desired.   



            The results from the Equality in Athletics survey were analyzed.  Questions ranged from what Title IX is, to whether or not the same amount of money is spent on men’s and women’s sports at McKendree.  First, a frequency test was run to determine how many people new of Title IX (Law1).  The answers could have been yes, somewhat, or no.  Interestingly, around 47% of students had no idea what Title IX is and could not describe it.   Around 26% said they somewhat knew about Title IX and 26% said they did know about Title IX. 

Law 1


Valid Percent

1 = yes



2 = somewhat



3 = no










Then a test was run to find if there was a difference between male and female responses to Law 1.  There was no significant difference, however there was a significant difference between non-athletes and athletes of p = .019.  Another test was run to determine the difference between the way men and women answered the fourth question (Law 4), which was: The same amount of money is spent on men’s and women’s sports at McKendree.  The difference was significant at a .05 level (p = .014).  Men falling closer to the strongly agree and women to the strongly disagree portion of the scale.

            Another frequency test was run on Law 5 which was: I normally fill out surveys sent to me over my college email account.  Around 49.3% of students said they strongly disagree with that statement, and only 3.5% said they strongly agree.  This could be important with regards to the future of Title IX and the controversy surrounding other means of implementing it.  A correlation was performed between Law 7 and Law 8 which were:  If a given team makes more money for the college, they in turn should be given most of the college’s athletic funds, and If given the opportunity I would rather watch a male sporting event instead of a female sporting event.  The correlation was significant at the .001 level, but not strong with r = .343.


Equal Money Spent on Sports?


Law 4 Mean


1 = male



2 = female



















Law 7

r = .343

p = .0001

Law 8

r = .343

P = .0001








            The results indicate that some of the hypotheses were significant while others were not.  The first hypothesis claimed that most people at McKendree will not know what Title IX is and this was correct, only 26 percent of students claimed to know of Title IX. The second part of the hypothesis was not significant however, women knew slightly more than men about Title IX.  The difference between the two was very small and the possible reason for this is that more women were surveyed than men and if the numbers were equal, there may have been more men that did not know of Title IX.  Most students tended to disagree with the statement that equal money is spent on men’s and women’s sports.  Women disagreed at a significantly higher level than men.

            The results concerning participation in emailed surveys supported the hypothesis that most students would not fill out surveys through email.  An astonishing 49% of students measured themselves as strongly disagreeing with a statement claiming they participate in emailed surveys.  This statistic is extremely important given the current actions of the Department of Education allowing schools to meet their Title IX requirement through emailed opinion surveys.  Overall, McKendree students appear satisfied that McKendree is a college that is effectively meeting the interests of women, but not with the difference in treatment of men’s and women’s sports.

            The future of Title IX is uncertain even though it is not likely the law will change, the way that the courts understand it will.  If students and the public do not know what Title IX is they cannot defend it or criticize it.  It is important for the public to be aware of the impact Title IX has made on the world of education and athletics.  Regarding the law, there have been some schools who have effectively implemented Title IX without eliminating men’s programs and it takes hard work and time.  Title IX needs more supporters to keep the myths that cut down the law from overtaking peoples’ perceptions about it.  The future of women in the United States rests on the interpretations of Title IX and that is why every person should know of it and tell others about it.




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Appendix A

Equality in Athletics Survey

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.  Please answer every question to the best of your ability and with honesty.  All information provided on this survey will remain confidential.


Gender:   Male    Female


Do you play a Varity sport at your college?  ____

Do you play a JV sport at your college? ____

Do you play an intramural sport at your college? ____

What sport/sports? ___________


1.) I am aware of what Title IX is and how it is implemented.

         Yes            Somewhat                No

If yes or somewhat, please explain…..




Please answer each statement using a 5-point scale.  Circle the number that shows how you feel about each statement.


            1                             2                            3                       4                           5

     Strongly                                               Neutral                                        Strongly

     Disagree                                                                                                      Agree



2.)  McKendree is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of women on campus.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5


3.)  The college I attend is expanding opportunities for women.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5


4.)  The same amount of money is spent on men’s and women’s sports at McKendree.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5


5.)  I normally fill out surveys sent to me over my college email account.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5



6.)  I think that there are laws that have decreased the amount of male athletes in college.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5


7.)  If a given team makes more money for the college, they in turn should be given most of the college’s athletic funds.

            1                             2                            3                       4                           5


8.)  If given the opportunity I would rather watch a male sporting event instead of a female sporting event.


            1                             2                            3                       4                           5