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Fair Play

Daily Sports Editor
Published October 26, 2005

According to the Women's Sports Foundation, the problem with the survey method is that it "fails to provide a valid measure of women's interest in sports and instead institutionalizes the very discrimination that is and has been the basis for women's lack of opportunity to participate in sports."

This change had the support of President Bush, who was critical of the "system of quotas" involved in Title IX. Furthermore, the survey could be administered via e-mail.

Those who support Title IX were furious at the suggestion, and quickly mobilized to quash the clarification before it took effect.

"It's disconcerting," USA Today columnist and Title IX advocate Christine Brennan said. "I don't know why they tried to do it. The good thing is that no one has ever heard of anyone actually trying to use it. Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA, told universities not to use it."

Currently, the law remains intact and quite similar to its original wording, which has been controversial from its nascence.


School Ties

The cast of characters in the story of Title IX is replete with Michigan connections, with the lead role played by former President Ford, a Michigan alum and former Wolverine football player. The supporting cast included such pillars of University athletic tradition as Canham, and renowned football coach Bo Schembechler.

President Nixon signed the bill putting Title IX into effect in 1972, but Ford signed the 1975 version - which added specific compliance criteria. All schools were given until July 1978 to create an equal varsity athletics program for women. Several schools in the Big Ten - including Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State - managed to put their respective programs into place well before the deadline. In contrast, the athletic department at Michigan waited until the date was mere months away.

It was no accident that Michigan was one of the last institutions to comply with Title IX. Canham, who was a maverick in supporting black students' participation in sports, was wholeheartedly opposed to providing significant, let alone equal, funding for women's athletics. These reasons were primarily financial, and he said that from a monetary perspective Title IX would be "an absolute disaster for both men and women's intercollegiate athletics." He knew that women's sports would probably not bring in enough money even to support themselves.

During this era, Saturdays at the Big House were nowhere near the cash cow they are today. To the contrary, plenty of empty seats could be found at games. This fact made Canham's concerns even more urgent and his views less flexible.

Some hypothesize that another reason Michigan was slow to support Title IX was that its tradition of men's sports was already deeper, richer and more extensive than at its Big Ten counterparts.

"The programs that were the quickest to succeed were the ones that had the worst men's teams - Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota," former women's swimming coach Stu Isaac said.

It should be noted that women's sports at Michigan existed long before the law forced them to be implemented. They were housed under the Department of Physical Education. They first functioned similarly to intramural teams, but by the late 1960s, they competed against other schools, though at a disadvantage, because many other institutions had women's varsity teams.

Canham made numerous trips to Washington to "talk some sense" into Ford. Schembechler traveled there at least once. But despite his appeals to the president as a former athlete on a men's squad, Ford was resolute.

"Not applying Title IX to collegiate athletics would not be consistent with the law Congress passed," Ford said in a written statement. "If congressional hearings suggest better approaches to achieving equal opportunity in athletic programs, I would support perfecting the legislation."

But no one came up with a superior plan, and women's varsity sports were officially launched - theoretically.


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