Women’s sports have come along way

By Gus Bode

Title IX celebrates 30 years of equal opportunities from women in sports

The University of Northern Iowa needed to make budget cuts in the early months of 2002. In an attempt to eliminate some of the budget problems, the school decided to cut the men’s and women’s tennis, swimming and diving teams.

Members of the teams retained legal counsel from a group called Trial Lawyers for Justice to help get the teams reinstated. The lawyers met with school officials, and six days later, the women’s teams were brought back. This was all thanks to a little section of education amendments called Title IX.


Although the reinstatement of the women’s team and not the men’s appeared to be unfair, the truth is that women at UNI were only given less than 37 percent of the opportunities to participate in athletics even though they made up more than 58 percent of the undergraduate student population.

Title IX celebrated its 30th anniversary June 23, and colleges have spent years trying to comply with the regulations to give women equal opportunities to participate in sports. SIU has worked hard over the past 30 years to make female athletic programs equal to their male counterparts, providing equality and opportunity to women’s sports.

“I think SIU has actually been a leader in women athletics over the years, and I attribute a lot of that to the former leadership,” said SIU Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk.

In just his two years as athletic director, Kowalczyk has realized the importance of Title IX and what it provides for women athletes.

“It leads to major gains for women, and when you talk about providing opportunities for women and trying to have a program, all of the sports programs need to be strong and supported,” Kowalczyk said. “I think it certainly provided opportunities where there were none.”

The new softball stadium that is currently under construction is an example of the change that Title IX has brought to the SIU community. The stadium plans were brought about because softball players didn’t have locker rooms, showers or restroom facilities, and the men’s team did.

And while many schools have cut teams to deal with budget crunches and Title IX violations, SIU has tried to provide funds to keep sports teams accessible.


“SIU has an outstanding history of not cutting men’s or women’s sports programs,” said SIU men’s tennis coach Missy Jeffrey.

SIU women’s athletic programs do provide many opportunities for women in sports, and the athletic program intends to continue this trend.

“I think we are in pretty good shape from an equality standpoint between men and women,” Kowalczyk said. “We will always try to be on the forefront of assisting our women’s programs.”

But 30 years ago, people weren’t as open about women in sports.

In order to remedy some of the sexual discrimination in the educational system, Congress passed the Education Amendments of 1972. Section 901(a) under these amendments is Title IX. This section of the Amendments states that no one in any educational system that receives federal financial assistance can be discriminated against based on sex.

This means that men and women must be provided equal opportunity to participate in sports, men and women athletes must receive scholarship money proportional to their participation and that men and women must be given the same quality of equipment, coaching staff, facilities and support services.

And for an idea as new as women playing college sports, the progress has been encouraging.

“Women’s sports is still relatively young, and these past 30 years it has taken a lot of steps of improvement, and I am hoping the next 25 years these steps would continue,” said SIU women’s basketball assistant coach Trisha Floyd.

Significant changes have been made to women’s college sports programs at universities around the nation in the past 30 years, but men and women are still not on equal playing fields when it comes to college sports programs.

According to the NCAA’s 1999-2000 Gender Equity Study, women account for only 44 percent of college athletes even though they account for 54 percent of the enrollment out of the 832 schools that responded.

The study shows that men’s college sports programs still have an advantage over women’s. Men receive 60.5 percent of sports scholarships, 64.5 percent of operating expenses, 68.2 percent of recruiting expenses and 59.5 percent of head coaching salaries.

The study also demonstrates important advancements that have been made in women’s sports programs. The number of women participating in intercollegiate sports has increased from around 30,000 participants 20 years ago to more than 150,000 today.

“I think there has been a tremendous amount of progress in female athletes’ participation and the level that they participate at, and I would hope and I think it will continue,” Floyd said.

Women used to have only tennis and golf established as professional tours, but today there are professional women’s leagues for soccer, volleyball, bowling and two for basketball.

Title IX has improved opportunities for women to participate in college sports, but many say there are still more steps needed to be taken so women can have equal access to college sports.

“For the future, I think Title IX will always be out there for those who need prodding and need a goal to achieve when it comes to providing the best opportunity possible for women,” Kowalczyk said.

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]