BY EVAN WEINER
THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
Here's a question for all the candidates vying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. What do you think of the 1972 Title IX legislation? It is an important question because the federal Title IX law opened the door for women in sports and other fields, including medicine and the law. Title IX bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics.
There should be a thorough discussion of Title IX particularly when one presidential candidate, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said in 2006 that her husband had told her to get a post-doctorate degree in tax law.
"Tax law? I hate taxes," she continued. "Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'"
Bachmann tried to clarify that statement on an American TV network Sunday morning gabfest by telling CBS's Norah O’Donnell "submission means respect, mutual respect."
For Title IX supporters, Bachmann's quote and backpedalling should be troublesome. Does Bachmann (and the other candidates) respect gender equity in colleges and universities? That's a question that needs to be brought up.
Republicans as a group seem to be wedded to the idea of "taking back our country" but it is very unclear what they mean by the statement.
Do they want to undo all the civil rights laws since 1964? Do they want to redo the Scopes Monkey Trail? Do they want to undo child labor laws? Ironically enough Bachmann more than likely benefitted from Title IX, as she didn’t run into any law school quotas, as she would have prior to 1972.
Since 1972, Title IX has faced a number of challenges and has staved off all of them including an attempt by President George W. Bush's administration in 2005 to weaken the legislation, which was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon -- whose persona was hardly that as a crusader for social justice even though his record suggests otherwise.
The U.S. Department of Education, without holding any public hearings, posted on its website new Title IX sports guidelines in 2005. Colleges and universities could comply with the Title IX legislation by asking their female students if they are interested in playing sports by responding to e-mail surveys. If there is a lack of response to the surveys, then a school can avoid offering sports opportunities to women and be in compliance with Title IX.
I was that simple. Answer an e-mail correctly and maybe a college or a university will have a women's team available.
The Department of Education's edict apparently caught the NCAA by surprise as well, because NCAA President Myles Brand issued a written statement saying, "The e-mail survey clarification will not provide an adequate indicator of interest among young women to participate in college sports. Nor does it encourage young women to participate, a failure that will likely stymie the growth of women's athletics and could reverse the progress made over the last three decades."
As it turned out, Title IX survived yet another challenge. But that doesn't mean Title IX will remain the law of the land. That is why two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Donna DeVerona, is still fighting forces that might want to combat the legislation that was crafted by lawmakers such as Senator Ted Stevens, who would never be considered a liberal or Nixon, who would now be considered a moderate by today's GOP standards and probably would not be accepted by a good portion of the party.
"Title IX was a civil right act applied to education," said DeVerona who was involved in the 1972 fight and continues to vigilant in making sure Title IX doesn't get watered down in any way. "Basically it said in law school, medical school. Sports was thrown in."
The biggest threat to Title IX in years past was the National College Athletic Association and the college football lobby, a group that would like all the money generated by college sports to be thrown into football. Texas Governor Rick Perry comes from a huge football state but DeVerona thinks that the NCAA is now more welcoming to women's sports and women's collegiate sports has developed a following complete with cable TV coverage. DeVerona has a novel idea to make sure Title IX and women sports are not endangered.
She thinks the National Football League ought to be paying for the development of players at the NCAA level. Her proposal is not unlike the transfer fees National Hockey League owners have to pay to Canadian Junior A teams or to get players out of Europe in some cases.
It is an idea that the NFL will never consider as college football has served as a cheap research and development laboratory for the league's franchises. Perry is a Texas A&M alum and knows the power of college football in Texas and some of his campaign advisors are major boosters at Texas institutions. In Austin, the state capital, the University of Texas just signed a huge cable TV deal because of Longhorns football. It doesn't matter what University of Texas women's team is playing, football is king in college sports. And. any proposal to pay college football players will more than likely mean less money for women's sports.
Title IX was never about women's sports; rather it was designed to kill quota systems at colleges and universities that accepted federal dollars. If a school took money from Washington, it had to treat men and women equally.
Some Presidential candidates have support from "good ol’ boy networks" because of sports connections. Texas Republicans seem to be friends with people like Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, a former NFL and NBA team owner whose Clear Channel radio group syndicates "personalities" like Rush Limbaugh. Men in power bond at sporting events, women have yet to really develop a "good old girls network" and some women athletes think succeeding in sports will translate into boardrooms -- eventually. It hasn't happened yet even though Title IX is nearly four decades old.
Title IX has changed how college sports are played in the country. Before 1972, the U.S. General Accounting Office released a figure showing that 32,000 women had participated in college sports, and that figure grew to 163,000 by 1999.
Men no longer get 95 percent of the dollars earmarked for sports, and that is causing friction in the men's teams coaching fraternity. A good number of those coaches think Title IX has taken away their ability to get the best athletes for their teams because they can't spend scholarship money solely for men's teams.