Women And Sports Weekend

Thursday, June 6
Updated: June 19, 1:13 PM ET
Three-pronged test makes true compliance vague

By Greg Garber

Over the 30 years that Title IX has been in effect, not a single institution ever has had its federal funding revoked for failing to comply.

There are two ways to view this record. Either the Office for Civil Rights, which monitors Title IX compliance, is doing a phenomenal job. Or, on the other hand, quite the opposite.

Roger Murphy, a spokesman for the OCR's Washington office, would like to think it's the former.

"Never have we had a case where it was not resolved," Murphy said recently. "When we're sure we have grounds for a compliance problem, we move in and get an agreement. We've not had people say, 'No, we disagree with you.' This is where our success has been."

Most experts in women's athletics will tell you they think most schools are not in compliance, based on the standard three-pronged test for compliance. To prove it is providing males and females equitable opportunities to play sports, an institution must do one of the following:

  1. Demonstrate that the percentage of its female athletes is nearly the same as the percentage of female undergraduate students;

  2. Show that it is steadily increasing opportunities for women;

  3. Prove that it is meeting the athletics interests and abilities of its female students.
It is an incredibly liberal policy. A school only has to demonstrate it did one of the three.
Christine Grant, University of Iowa athletics director emeritus
Certainly, the first prong is quite specific, but the other two are fairly vague.

"It is an incredibly liberal policy," said Christine Grant, athletics director emeritus at the University of Iowa. "A school only has to demonstrate it did one of the three."

According to Murphy, who did not provide specific figures, the OCR fields approximately 25 Title IX complaints per year and pursues, on average, between 17 and all of them. The numbers, he said, have increased gradually over the years.

"When we receive a complaint, we do an analysis to see if the alleged discrimination has occurred." Murphy said. "Once we make the appropriate determinations, we'll open a Civil Rights case. We send the school a letter requesting data from them. Once we get the data back, we schedule an on-site visit."

The OCR field operators interview people on campus and collect information. In time, a list of compliance concerns is presented to the school, which in turn usually presents the OCR with a proposed resolution agreement. The OCR signs off on the proposed changes and monitors those changes. Some issues, like inferior uniforms, can be resolved in days. Some, like inequitable playing facilities, may take years to address.

Murphy said OCR could not offer concrete figures, but he estimated that as many as 300 schools have produced resolution agreements over the lifetime of Title IX.

Balancing traditional men's programs and emerging women's teams is a difficult task. Basically, it comes down to money. The schools with a substantial cash flow have managed to protect their men's teams better than ones with shrinking budgets.

When Lew Perkins arrived as the athletics director at the University of Connecticut in 1990, he was given two major assignments: Improve gender equity, and help launch an upgrade to Division I-A football from Division I-AA. The catch, of course, was that the two moves were contradictory. Fortunately, UConn had a natural resource to draw on -- basketball. The women won national titles in 1995, 2000 and 2002, while the men won the championship in 1999. Connecticut's support for basketball, from the alumni and fans to the legislature, helped fund dramatic changes at the school.

I've done everything to not cut sports here, although we had to give up a few JV programs. I don't want to be in position where we have to cut sports to add participation.
Lew Perkins, UConn Athletics Director
"I've always been committed to, not just Title IX, but more importantly to have equal opportunities for people," Perkins said. "Our society is going that way, and I think it's the right thing to do. It sounds so simplistic, but it's true. I've done everything to not cut sports here, although we had to give up a few JV programs (in baseball and soccer). I don't want to be in position where we have to cut sports to add participation."

Long before UConn began building its new football stadium and lining up the University of Miami on the schedule, it started bulking up its women's programs. Ice hockey, crew and lacrosse all became recognized varsity sports, and today the numbers for men and women are very nearly equal.

In 2000-01 -- the final numbers for this year aren't yet available -- UConn's undergraduate population was 53.1 percent women and 46.9 percent men. The athletic breakdown was 339 women (51.2 percent) and 323 men (48.8 percent). The scholarship money is $2,086,279 for men (50.1 percent) and $2,080,735 for women (49.9 percent). Most of the women's programs are fully funded, according to NCAA maximums.

"Football, for many schools is a major issue (in reaching equity)," Perkins said. "There are ways that you can make it work with football, but what does that mean if you lose revenue. We've run out of revenue sources, so football hopefully becomes a revenue source. With the costs we have, it's a very, very difficult thing."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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