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Title IX: 40 years of progress?

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Title IX: 40 years of progress?

The facts are clear and indisputable. Since Title IX was adopted in 1972, 40 years ago, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex has dramatically changed the course of education for female students in athletics and academics in the United States.

In 1971 before Title IX, women earned less than 10 percent of law and medical degrees and only 13 percent of doctoral degrees. Only 1 in 27 participated in high school sports. There was virtually no money available for college scholarships. The Illinois High School Association didn't sponsor any sports for girls.

Things sure have changed. By 2001, 1 in 2.5, or 2.8 million girls were participating in high school sports. The number of girls competing in college sports increased from 32,000 in 1971 to 150,000 in 2012. There is 1 million available for scholarships and the IHSA sponsors 15 competitive activities for girls, 14 for boys.

But a gender gap still exists. Women hold fewer management positions than men and earn only 77 cents for every dollar that a male counterpart earns. There are 1.3 million fewer girls participating in high school sports. And that doesn't take into account who's watching.

Steve Tucker and Dave Power have been observing girls sports in Illinois and around the country since the 1970s--Tucker as an editorreporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and Power as basketball coach at Proviso East, Proviso West, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Fenwick.

They freely acknowledge the many pluses of Title IX. Power has sent 40 girls to college on scholarship. Girls have opportunities to go to college to compete in such sports as field hockey, rugby, lacrosse and bowling, activities that didn't exist at the time that Title IX was enacted.

"Title IX has given girls almost unlimited opportunities to participate on a team," Power said. "There are more sports, more opportunities, more scholarships. It has opened up a lot of pathways and doors that weren't open before. Girls have learned lifelong lessons that carry over into life beyond sports."

Power recalls the pre-Title IX era when girls participated in the Girls Athletic Association (GAA), which amounted to intramural competition. The Illinois High School Association didn't sponsor any championship activities for girls, only boys.

"There was always one girl in every school, called a Tom Boy, who was more athletic than other girls and even some boys and she competed with her older brothers and mixed it up with the boys in football, basketball and baseball. When Title IX began, she could take her team quite a way, like Pam Gant or Kathy Boswell or Tina Hutchinson or Jackie Joyner-Kersee. But that won't fly today.

"In those days, there was no athleticism. The skill set was very low. In basketball, nobody could make a free throw. That's what is different today. Now each team has four or five really good players. One great player isn't enough to take a team Downstate. The game is more uptempo. There is more athleticism, more good fundamentals, more skills."

But Power also sees a negative side. He describes a "glut in sports" that is created by parents who, frustrated that their daughter doesn't excel in one sport, find another sport that she does excel in, then organize a team. "That is what is hurting girls sports," he said.

"In girls programs, they don't cut so they keep 110-120 girls in a program, 40-50 on a team. There are too many sports and so many coaches are trying to get girls to play them full-time. In the old days, kids played more than one sport. Today, specialization is emphasized. More and more sports are popping up."

Power sees some sports booming while others are declining. Some teams boast such large numbers that many girls can't play or see little playing time. At Fenwick, Power said coaches share athletes, allowing them to participate in more than one sport. But many schools persuade girls to compete in only one sport, like a club sport.

He claims Fenwick basketball is thriving. He keeps only 15 players on the varsity. In 20 years at the Oak Park school, he has won over 400 games and two state championships.

"The game is still great, better than ever, better skills and athleticism and fundamentals, maybe too physical," he said. "From a team point of view, everything is going well. But are we producing the number of super stars or great players. Something is amiss. Maybe it's because we are producing a number of girls who are very good but not great. We're not seeing any more Candace Parkers or Devereaux Peters or Tricia Listons."

Power believes girls basketball is losing potentially great players because there are so many other avenues for them to take. "Kids go where they can get a college scholarship, where their best chance is. They are influenced by their families. For some, it's a status figure. Now it's a driving force," he said.

Tucker counts empty seats. He said he isn't sure that Title IX has turned out exactly the way the organizers and legislators envisioned it. He notes how it has impacted on college sports--how many programs are operating in the black?--and how attendance figures for high school girls and boys sports have declined.

"The biggest part is acceptance," Tucker said. "It is there and people do it. But girls softball, basketball and volleyball isn't like what they do for boys...no cheerleaders, no concessions. Very rarely do you see high schools conduct dances or other social activities after girls games like they do for boys games.

"Yes, there are scholarships for girls, which is why Title IX was created but it hasn't put people in the seats. There is not a huge fan base for girls sports, just family and friends and fans. At a boys football or basketball game, there is a social aspect to it, not with girls sports.

"Girls sports haven't found a niche with the public. There is no "oh boy, the girls are playing" attitude, even within their own community, high school or college. I don't see a lot of kids going to girls games."

Tucker also points out that Title IX has been a financial drain on high school and college programs. With the addition of so many more sports and so many participants, there are fewer qualified coaches. Budgets are being stretched. Who pays for all the equipment and facilities?

"It is good to have so many options but it has taken its toll," Tucker said. "Schools are strapped financially. Some schools are forced to eliminate some sports and cut back on coaches."

Colleges have cut back, too. Because of Title IX, some schools have cut wrestling and other non-revenue sports. In women's basketball, Tennessee, Connecticut and Notre Dame have done well. DePaul averages under 3,000 at home, fewer than the Northwestern men's team that hasn't qualified for the NCAA tournament in its history.

"After 40 years, It is a big disappointment," Tucker said. "It is the nature of society today. Boys sports aren't drawing as many spectators as they once did. There are more things to do and more things pulling at people to do. Remember the old Chicago Hustle, the women's professional basketball team in the late 1970s and early 1980s? They generated more interest than anyone now. And they're gone and forgotten."

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

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This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."

What José Abreu knew was coming: White Sox wins and playoff-style baseball

What José Abreu knew was coming: White Sox wins and playoff-style baseball

This is what José Abreu has been waiting for.

This is what Abreu knew was coming.

This is what Abreu was talking about when he spent the entirety of last year saying how badly he wanted to be part of the franchise’s bright future.

“Something very big,” he said last summer, forecasting what the White Sox were building, “and I don’t want to leave here.”

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He later admitted he never even considered playing for another team during his brief time as a free agent last offseason. Heck, he didn’t even really make it to the winter, signing his new three-year contract to stay on the South Side before Thanksgiving.

He believed in the future. And now he’s seeing it.

The White Sox won their fifth straight game Monday night, a 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that was dripping with playoff feeling, the kind of vibe that’s been absent from South Side baseball during the majority of Abreu’s time here. He’s yet to play for a team that’s finished the season north of .500.

But Monday, he delivered the game’s clutchest hit: a two-run homer that sent a 4-2 deficit to a 4-all tie in the seventh inning. A wild pitch brought the go-ahead run home the following inning, and the White Sox were winners.

Abreu’s personal heroics alone aren’t what’s made this year different. Those we've seen before. It’s what’s going on around him.

On the same night Abreu blasted that ball to center field at Miller Park, the young players who enticed him to stick around showed what they can do, too. Luis Robert had a single, a pair of walks and two stolen bases. Yoán Moncada had three hits, including a ninth-inning home run. Nomar Mazara picked up a single in his first game in a White Sox uniform. And Nick Madrigal took a four-pitch walk that ended with that game-winning wild pitch.

Expand the scope to the last five games, all White Sox wins, and there’s a heaping helping of the kind of stuff Abreu knew was coming: Lucas Giolito turning in an ace-like performance last week in Cleveland, Robert and Eloy Jiménez both coming a triple away from the cycle Saturday in Kansas City and Madrigal knocking out four hits Sunday.

“It’s always good to be around this team we have right now, this group,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Monday night. “A lot of energy and passion, that motivates you more every day. … I was looking to make good contact in that at-bat (that resulted in the home run). It was very special. I want to keep doing those things for this team.”

RELATED: Streaking White Sox turn slow start around: 'All these games are must-win'

Of course, what made Abreu’s multi-year contract feel like an inevitability — apart from Abreu saying on multiple occasions that he’d sign himself if the White Sox didn’t put the papers in front of him — was that the relationship was a two-way street. Abreu voiced his love for the White Sox, and they returned the favor, talking about everything he’s brought to the team as a team leader and a role model for the young players.

A lineup that’s been so productive this season is well stocked with members of the José Abreu Mentorship Program. That lineup is capable of doing things no other White Sox lineup Abreu’s been a part of could do. And, whether this year or down the road, that could include the biggest of things.

“Frankly, my happiness for a guy like José will come once we're able to present him with a ring,” general manager Rick Hahn said before Opening Day, “because that's what he deserves based on what he's meant for this organization and his performance on the field. Certainly look forward to, hopefully, the opportunity to do that in the coming years with him.”

Abreu didn’t have to wait long to get a taste of a different kind of baseball, with Monday night’s game — just the 10th of this season — featuring a parade of edge-of-your-seat moments.

One of those intense moments? Abreu’s at-bat in the fifth inning. With Robert on base ahead of him, Abreu fought off one pitch after another in an 11-pitch at-bat. It ended in a strikeout, but it allowed Abreu to see just about everything Corbin Burnes had to offer. Two innings later, Abreu homered off Burnes to tie the game.

"Those at-bats put you in a good position for next time you face the pitcher," Abreu said. "That at-bat was the key for me to get a homer in the next at-bat. I saw those pitches and was prepared for what he wanted to do. Even though I struck out, that was a really key moment and at-bat for me."

That’s the kind of player Abreu’s been all along. Now, he’s doing it in the middle of a potent lineup on a team with realistic postseason expectations.

RELATED: Nick Madrigal's four-hit day shows what White Sox newest core member can do

Intensity was hard to come by for viewers over three rebuilding seasons that featured a combined 284 losses. One five-game winning streak won’t wash all those rebuilding-era losses away by itself, but the White Sox are over .500 and in second place in the AL Central. That’s playoff position in this bizarre season with an eight-team American League playoff field. Fans are starting to get a little giddy, and the players are certainly recognizing a different feel in the clubhouse after they turned around a 1-4 start.

But this is Abreu we’re talking about.

Moncada might be stylish, Robert might be fast, and Jiménez might be fun-loving. But they all have one thing in common learned from their time in the José Abreu Mentorship Program: They work hard.

And so with the White Sox streaking, leave it to Abreu to deliver the most Abreu of messages.

“We can’t get too comfortable. We need to do our job and keep working because we need to get more results,” he said. “This is no time, by any means, to get comfortable and think we are a finished product. We need to keep working.”


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