Media Laud Title IX; Ignore Dark Side

June 23 marked the 37th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Despite the distinct un-roundness of 37, the Obama Administration for some reason has decided to celebrate it. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice celebrated the anniversary of Title IX by describing on the White House blog how the lessons she learned through sports participation have served her well in her professional endeavors. Alongside a photo of her during her high school basketball days, Rice encouraged other women to submit photos of their “own Title IX days.” 

Rice did not encourage men to submit photos of their “Title IX days,” perhaps because they have none.

Title IX hurt men's sports, and despite ample evidence of it, the media have neglected this important story.

The 1972 law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” 

Title IX appears fair on the surface but has tilted the playing field it was supposed to level in favor of women by the application of the law.

Alison Kasic of the Independent Women's Forum summarized in a 2008 column the three-prong test established in 1979 used to demonstrate adherence to the law. “Schools could provide proportional representation in their programs based on enrollment,” she wrote, “show a history of expanding programs for the underrepresented sex, or demonstrate that their programs meet the interest and abilities of the underrepresented sex.”

Problems arise from these measures because only the first, proportionality, is a quantitative measure. According to the first prong, if 65 percent of the school's student body is female, than 65 percent of the school's athletes should be female. This application has essentially turned Title IX into a mandate of sex-based quotas and resulted in decreased athletic opportunities for men.

Prong two is entirely subjective in nature. Prong three is useless without a commitment to seeking students' feedback on their athletic interests. The Title IX lobby has criticized efforts to quantify “demonstrated interest” through surveys. Jessica Gavora, vice-president of policy at the College Sports Council, characterized arguments against such surveys as groups thinking “it doesn't really matter if women are as interested in sports as men. It's up to colleges and universities to create that interest.”

A 2007 study by The College Sports Council found that the total number of men's collegiate-level sports teams declined 17 percent between 1981 and 2005. Since 1995, the total number of women's sports teams has surpassed men's teams.   

Broadcast networks are fully complicit in the effort to laud Title IX for women's achievements and whitewash its negative effects on men. A Nexis search revealed 23 segments within the past five years that discussed Title IX and only four looked at the negative effects. Fifteen of the segments aired championed Title IX for its role in women's success.

Favoring Girls, Ignoring Boys


Only one network report acknowledged that colleges do cut men's sports programs due to Title IX restrictions, despite the dramatic drop in the total number of men's available opportunities.


ABC aired the only report of a college cutting a men's team as a result of Title IX, about the University of Northern Iowa's decision to eliminate its men's baseball team. Correspondent Eric Horng reported during the May 3, 2009 “World News Sunday” broadcast, “Cutting baseball, with its large roster and travel budget, will save $400,000. The athletic director says Title IX gender equity laws meant he couldn't cut a women's program, leaving him few options.”

CBS covered a negative effect of Title IX: more injuries to female athletes as a result of more frequent sports participation. “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric introduced the October 2, 2007 segment, “When Congress passed Title IX back in 1972, it led to an explosion of girls playing school sports that were once considered for boys only. But that meant getting some of the same injuries as well.”

At other times, such as during a June 23, 2007 interview on NBC's “Today,” advocates quickly dismissed concerns of Title IX's harmful effects on boys and men. 

WNBA president Donna Orender clung to the proportionality prong and disregarded the interest-prong in a 2007 interview with Campbell Brown, then a weekend co-host on NBC's “Today.” After exclaiming she “didn't really understand” the criticism of Title IX compliance at the collegiate level focusing more on quotas than on the actual interest in women's sports team, Orender continued, “When you look at 56 percent of college attendees are women…and yet only 41 percent of the…opportunities to participate in sports are for women, there's still these inequities there.”

Two other NBC reports from 2006 cited Title IX as a reason for the decline in boys' educational achievement. “Today” co-host Matt Lauer asked on June 14, “Back in the '70s federal law, Title IX, forced schools to provide equal opportunities for girls in education and athletics…supporting girls in areas in which they traditionally struggles like math and science. But what about the boys?” Educational expert Michele Borba, told Lauer that in the past 30 years, “we changed our educational system in our classrooms to make it a little more conducive to girls. But what we did is we put the picture off of the boys. We didn't look at that spot, and as a result our boys continue to fail, not only in school, but they're going to be failing in life.”

Borba's observation echoed a similar view held by Newsweek's Peg Tyre, who stated in a January 23, 2006 interview with Lauer, “Thirty years ago the playing field really wasn't level for girls. Girls didn't have the same educational opportunities and Title IX, some federal laws, really changed that. And girls got the opportunities and they went straight to the head of the class, and now boys are lagging a bit.

Tyre argued “the reduction of physicial education” hurt boys. Similarly, one of Borba's recommendations to help boys included, “encouraging an element of competition.”

Yet, nobody made the connection between cutting men's sports programs, a true “element of competition” and the statistic that “42 men for every 58 women go to college.”

Celebrating Women's Athletic Achievements


Marcia Greenberger, an attorney and co-president of the National Women's Law Center, told Charles Gibson on November 30, 2004, that “Title IX protects boys as well as girls, young women as well as young men, female as well as male employees of schools. So, it works both ways.”

Why then, is the positive coverage of Title IX centered mostly around girls and women?

Sixty-five percent of the segments analyzed lauded Title IX as positive for girls.

Former Congresswoman Edith Green and Sen. Birch Bayh, the authors of Title IX, made Child magazine's list of 20 people who changed children's lives forever. Child's editor-in-chief Miriam Arond told NBC's Ann Curry in a September 19, 2006 interview that the lawmakers “were going to stop federal funding to any colleges that discriminated against girls. But that actually filtered down, so that now high school and elementary school girls were very involved in academics as well as in sports.” Arond did not note that Title IX helped establish educational roadblocks for boys.

Earlier that month, Charles Gibson hailed tennis player Billie Jean King, and observed that the night she beat Bobby Rigs in a tennis match, “was a seminal moment in sport” and that she “was also instrumental in winning the fight for Title IX that opened opportunities for girls in sports.” Gibson continued, “Before Title IX, three hundred thousand schoolgirls participated in school athletics. Now, it's in the millions. And young female athletes take their opportunities for granted.”

ABC's Bob Woodruff reported during the 2004 Olympics, “There is no more dominant force than the U.S. women.” He continued, “There are many reasons for the U.S. Women's Olympic success. The federal law, known as Title IX, that was passed more than 30 years ago, forced U.S. colleges to add hundreds of women's teams.”

Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the pro-family Eagle Forum, viewed Title IX's effect on the Olympics differently. She argued that its mandates actually hurt America's chances of success at the Athens Games:

Since Title IX was interpreted in 1979 by the Carter Administration to require quotas (under the code word proportionality), our percentage of Olympic medals has repeatedly declined (not counting 1984 when top medal-winning countries boycotted the games). In 2000, our share of medals fell to its lowest ever for Olympics that the U.S. attended.

Schlafly continued, “Title IX is holding us back, interfering with dedicated athletes and wasting money on the less motivated. It sets the tone of mindless equality of result, rather than the Olympic spirit that rewards the best athlete.”

Even Sarah Palin said she was “a product of Title IX” during her September 12, 2008 interview with Charles Gibson.

And now, Title IX is used to describe body shapes. For Robin Givhan, fashion editor at The Washington Post, Michelle Obama's arms are a triumph of the federal legislation.  

Givhan told NBC's Brian Williams on Inauguration Day, Obama “beautiful, sculpted arms. I kind of call them post-Title IX arms. You know, they're arms from someone who really looks like an athlete, moves with the grace of an athlete, I think, and has that sort of body presence that you get from athletics. We haven't seen that.”