The President-Elect on Title IX

With last night’s election of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to the presidency, some folks are already asking what the change in administrations might mean for the future of Title IX enforcement. Here’s Lester Munson at

Obama’s approach to governing can be expected to have some indirect impacts in college sports. Coaches, athletes and administrators in a number of so-called minor sports, such as wrestling, have long been wary that their sports will be eliminated to meet the equality of gender requirements of Title IX, and they cannot be happy about Obama’s election. With President Bush in the White House and Dennis Hastert, a former wrestling coach, serving as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, participants in those sports had some hope that Title IX requirements might be diluted.

Bush and his staff looked hard at Title IX and the possibility of enacting changes in the regulations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that govern Title IX, but they backed away as opposition to any changes grew.

Obama, the father of two daughters, might not be sympathetic to those hoping to lessen the impact of Title IX.

While it’s nice to see that ESPN is interested in this story, we have to admit that they’re a little late to the game. Truth be told, outside of a “pay-per-play” special they did in conjunction with the Women’s Sports Foundation a few months back, ESPN hasn’t paid any serious attention to the issue, and even moved to block a television ad that put the spotlight on the University of Oregon when they decided to eliminate their historic men’s wrestling program.

I think it’s also important to note that the term, “minor sport,” is one that the staff at the Women’s Sports Foundation has inserted into this debate as a way to marginalize the victims of proportionality. The fact is, that besides wrestling, a number of other Olympic sports like swimming, track, gymnastics and fencing regularly see programs canceled due to proportionality.

But now onto the issue at hand, the arrival of Senator Obama in the White House and the appointment of a new Secretary of Education. As it turns out, we do think there’s an opportunity here to get off on the right foot. With a new administration and a new education secretary, it would seem to be a good time to review the harm caused by the proportionality requirement. These harms are happening right now, and if gender quota hardliners get their way, it’s inevitable that the negative trends we’ve been seeing for years will only accelerate.

Better yet, considering how many college students were involved in the Obama campaign, allowing those same students to have a greater voice in campus athletic programs through interest surveys would seem to be completely in the spirit of his campaign.

On the other hand, there are certainly signs that Congress will pass legislation that could be tremendously harmful — namely the High School Athletics Accountability Act. In short, it’s an attempt to bring all the “benefits” of proportionality to high school athletics. If passed, more than 1 million male athletes could potentially lose the opportunity to compete.

It’s going to be an interesting four years. Stay tuned.

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