San Jose Mercury News: Because of Title IX, the number of girls in high school sports has increased ninefold in 30 years and quintupled in college.
Because of Title IX, girls take pride in becoming strong, fast and fiercely competitive.
Because of its remarkable success -- and its still unfulfilled promise -- an advisory commission last week wisely resisted the call to eviscerate Title IX. It instead adopted modest changes to regulations interpreting the law.
The commission recommendations should discourage the gaming of the system that has undermined the goal of true equality.
Title IX bans gender discrimination in educational institutions that get federal money -- nearly all public and private schools and colleges. With respect to sports, courts and federal officials have interpreted Title IX to require that the number of athletes mirror the ratio of men and women in the student body.
Education Secretary Rod Paige created the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics in response to complaints that Title IX had forced colleges to drop men's teams, particularly wrestling and gymnastics. Those sports have declined sharply, but too often women athletes have been made scapegoats for lazy athletic directors and bad choices.
College population
Most schools still don't comply with Title IX. Women make up 42 percent of all participants, yet are 56 percent of the college population. Two-thirds of athletic budgets are spent on men's teams. Football in Division I schools, with 85 scholarships, swallows a huge share of dollars, crowding out wrestlers and siphoning recruiting budgets for women.
Seventy-five Division I men's basketball and football coaches make $1 million or more. Profligate spending on football hurts men's and women's sports. The fault is not Title IX.
The commission had considered weakening the 1972 law by abandoning strict proportionality and building in big fudge factors, but it wisely rejected those proposals. Instead, it adopted a proposal from Stanford Athletic Director Ted Leland, commission co-chair. It would base proportionality on the number of openings on a team -- instead of the actual number of participants. That way, if three women quit the swim team, the men's team wouldn't feel pressure to drop three men. There also would be no limit on walk-on players.
Women's activists charge this would savage the law by counting unfilled positions toward compliance. Leland predicts the opposite: No longer able to rely on tricks like loading up women's crew teams just to make numbers, schools would have to add programs.
The report now goes to Paige, who should commit to strongly enforcing the law. He should also make sure that fixes at the intercollegiate level do not undermine compliance among high schools.

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