EVENING THE ODDS
JUNE 17, 1997
A look back at the effects of Title IX, the staute that requires gender equity in collegiate sports, as current and former female college athletes celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight 25 years of Title IX and a conversation with Robert Hughes. Title IX is the name of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting gender discrimination at any school that receives federal funds. Today's White House ceremony celebrated the law and the women who benefitted from it. Not all of them were athletes. The law applies to all school programs, but Title IX has had its most visible impact on men's and women's athletic programs. Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW-Chicago reports.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The female athletes who dominated the 1996 Olympics were dubbed "the offspring of Title IX," and 25 years after the historic legislation banning gender discrimination in education was passed, women's participation in college sports has quadrupled.
SPOKESPERSON: Welcome on behalf of the Women's Sports Foundation-- ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Donna Lopiano heads the Women's Sports Foundation. She says the 25 years since Title IX have brought tremendous change.
DONNA LOPIANO, Women's Sports Foundation: Now, when you look at high school girls, one out of every three high school girls plays varsity sports statistically. That means we've come halfway there. We're getting half the opportunities that boys are. And it's still not there, but, boy, has there been a lot of progress.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: To prove that women athletes are being given an equal opportunity, schools must meet one of these three conditions: Proportionality: The percentage of female athletes should come within 5 percent of the percentage of female undergraduates in that student body. Expansion: There must be a history as well as a future plan to expand opportunities for women athletes. Opportunity: Schools must show they are providing enough sports to meet the interests of female athletes. Last weekend, Indiana University took the unusual step of honoring its three Title IX athletes. Ninety women athletes returned to Indiana to claim a varsity letter for sports some had competed in as long as 60 years ago. Letters were handed out by athletic director Clarence Doninger.
CLARENCE DONINGER: The athletics committee enthusiastically endorsed what we're doing here tonight. I know we've been slow in doing it but sometimes it takes us a little while to catch up.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Former diver Cynthia Potter was thrilled to be collecting her "I" award. Potter had already won a national championship when she came to Indiana in 1972. She subsequently won 27 more national champsionships, qualified for three Olympic teams, and won a Bronze Olympic Medal in 1976. Yet, Potter, like all other pre-Title IX female athletes, could not compete for Indiana University or get a scholarship.
CYNTHIA POTTER, Former Indiana University Diver: I can't believe that I finally got a collegiate letter. I never thought--I never dreamed--I never really even hoped for it when I went to college. So, you know, it's never about what we did, but tonight, getting a letter is something that makes me really proud of the fact that I competed collegiately and I was able to do something that I never dreamed that i would be allowed to do. So this really sort of completes an experience for me.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Fellow diver, Olympic Gold Medal winner Lesley Bush, was equally pleased.
LESLEY BUSH, Former Indiana University Diver: It was about 32 years ago that I want the Olympic Gold Medal. And I won it before I came here. It's what happened here that was from '65 to '70 that was exciting also for me. And now that I have gotten a letter from IU, one I never thought that I would get, I sort of feel like I should go back and tell my daughter about it and maybe some of my students at high school, at the high school where I teach.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: With Bush and Potter at the awards ceremony, their coach, Hobie Billingsley. A highly successful men's coach, now retired, Billingsley was one of the first coaches in the country to coach women on the collegiate level. Among his divers, this correspondent.
SPOKESMAN: Elizabeth Everett Brackett.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: It was a thrill. Billingsley began coaching women at Indiana in 1960, even though they couldn't compete for the university. He remembers the reaction of swimming coach Dr. James Counselman.
HOBIE BILLINGSLEY, Former Indiana University Diving Coach: When we walked in the pool with Dr. Counselman, he says, "What are you doing with those girls in here?". I says, "Well, I'm going to coach them." He says, "Not in this pool you're not. Get 'em out of here." So I took 'em in during my lunch hour when he wasn't around and I went 17 years and coached girls for nothing.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Why?
HOBIE BILLINGSLEY: Because they wouldn't pay me. Because they paid me for boys but they didn't pay me for girls, and I wanted to see girls have the opportunity. So it was upon my responsibility--upon me to do that.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: An opportunity Potter says she was grateful for. Even though there were no intercollegiate meets or scholarships, Potter is far from bitter.
CYNTHIA POTTER: I like to think that maybe there was some ground that my teammates and I covered that sort of set the stage for what's happening now, but I have no resentment. I only have gratitude for the place where, you know, I got to be, and maybe the place where women are today.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Compared to Potter's era, women athletes are in great shape at Indiana today. Female divers have a full intercollegiate schedule and just as many scholarships as the male divers. Even more astonishing, female basketball players are allotted 15 scholarships, while IU's famed basketball coach Bobby Knight has only 12 scholarships to hand out to the men. Today's female athletes take scholarships for granted.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: What do you think Title IX does?
SUMMER MAINES, IU Basketball Player: Title IX helps to provide scholarships for women athletes, I believe.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Are you on a scholarship?
SUMMER MAINES: Yes, I am.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: And would you have considered going to a school that didn't give you a scholarship?
SUMMER MAINES: No. (laughing)
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: How many schools did you talk to?
SUMMER MAINES: I've talked to five schools in the end, but several more were writing me in the beginning.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: And with the new WNBA, the Women's National Basketball Association, due to start its season this month, the opportunities for women continue to grow.
SUMMER MAINES: It makes a major difference because now you know that you have somethin'--you can play after college. It's not just where I go to college, play, they pay my way to school, and then I'm done. Now you can go up to the league like the men.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Despite the gains made under Title IX, in intercollegiate athletics today for every $1 that is spent on a female athlete, $3 is spent on a male athlete. And a recent USA Today survey found that only seven Division 1 schools met the Title IX standards for gender equity. Indiana, like most Division 1A schools with big football programs, falls short in the proportionality test. 54 percent of the undergraduates are women, 36 percent of the school's athletes are women. In hard numbers, men receive $2 million in scholarship aid. Women receive half that, $1.2 million. Nationally, women make up 50 percent of the full-time undergraduates at Division 1A schools. But only 34 percent of those who compete in sports are women. Athletic director Doninger says Indiana is working towards equality.
CLARENCE DONINGER, IU Athletic Director: Quite frankly, we're being told that we've got to. You know, society is telling us, Title IX is telling us that we've got to make that push, so we accept that. You know, I accept it, No. 1, because the legal ramifications, and, No. 2, I look at it as a desirable goal. The reason it's a little difficult to get there is because of football. Football we have these huge numbers, huge dollars. They also bring in huge dollars, and there isn't a sport on the women's side that's comparable in terms of numbers.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Like all Division 1A schools, IU offers 85 football scholarships. There are 112 roster spots for football. To add more slots for women, IU has added women's soccer, water polo, and plans to add field hockey. That should bring the school into compliance with Title IX by showing a history and a plan for expanding opportunities. But even strong supporters of female athletes worry about what this will do to men's sports in a time of tight budgets.
HOBIE BILLINGSLEY: What they do is they keep adding more programs for the women and they're decreasing them, the number of programs for men in the non-revenue sports. The non-revenue sports just get nailed in this situation. The atheltic directors are aware of it, but no one is doing anything about it. And they probably won't.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: What do you thinlk should happen?
HOBIE BILLINGSLEY: Well, they should eliminate the 85 scholarships for men in football because it's a business. It's not sports; it's a business. Everyone knows that.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: But Lopiano says schools can comply with Title IX and keep football scholarships in the equation.
DONNA LOPIANO: Let's say football, instead of having 85 scholarships, has 60 scholarships, right, and you can take the 60 scholarships, and you can spread them among the same number of players. How's football going to change? The same players are going to the schools, but instead of some players, even the 85th player, getting a full grant, he never got a chance to play anyway--I mean, you know, he was on the third string-instead of him getting the full scholarship, maybe he gets a partial. So there are ways to keep football strong and any--you would always want to keep any revenue producing program as strong as it could be, but also comply with the law.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Indiana says it hopes to achieve equity in men's and women's sports programs by 2004. Associate IU athletic director Isabella Hutchison, creator of the IU awards ceremony and a recipient herself, has her fingers crossed.
ISABELLA HUTCHISON, IU Associate Athletic Director: I would hope within the next 10 years we could see really a big boom for the women, and, you know, I hope it don't take another 25 years.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Last week, the National Women's Law Center filed complaints against 25 schools, accusing them of discriminating against female athletes in scholarship funding. The law center hopes the complaints will speed up the process of achieving gender equity in women's intercollegiate sports.