Softball Community Hails Title IX Announcement

By Staff

Coaching Management, 11.7, October 2003,

The softball community breathed a collective sigh of relief this summer with the July 11 announcement that Title IX enforcement will remain essentially unchanged in the wake of an extensive review. Many feared the review had the potential to weaken the 1972 statute.

“I think the potential was there for a disaster,” says Jacquie Joseph, Head Coach at Michigan State University. “Softball coaches around the country are happy—we’ve gotten a message that Title IX is here to stay.”

Last year, the 15-member Commission on Opportunity in Athletics set out to study Title IX enforcement and make any recommendations needed to improve it. The Commission’s creation caused outcry from Title IX proponents, prompting Secretary of Education Rod Paige to promise to consider only recommendations that received unanimous approval from the panel. The Commission reached consensus on 15 recommendations, and remained deeply split on eight others.

Paige considered the unanimous recommendations, but in the end, announced that Title IX will be enforced with the same guidelines as in the past. The announcement did contain two suggestions on how institutions should comply with the law, however. It discouraged the elimination of men’s sports in order to pass the Title IX proportionality test, and it clarified that all three of Title IX’s tests can be used to achieve equality—demonstrating increasing opportunities for women or showing that women’s athletic interests are being met hold just as much weight as proportionality.

Highlighting ways of complying with Title IX other than proportionality should help silence critics of the law who claim increased opportunities for women are costing opportunities for men, Joseph believes. “Women in athletics are not unsympathetic when non-revenue men’s sports get cut,” she says, “but that is not a problem Title IX can solve, and Title IX was an unfair target. With this decision, the message back to individual institutions is, ‘Do not make the decision to cut men’s teams and then blame that decision on Title IX.’”

Even with the number of softball teams steadily on the rise and a new decision upholding Title IX, there is no room for complacency, Joseph believes. “The reason it’s so easy to embrace Title IX is because of the countless opportunities athletics give women, both on and off the field,” she says. “The best way we can continue to keep Title IX strong is to be ambassadors for the positives that athletics bring to women’s lives.”