BY AMY FADOOL KANE, CSN PHILLY
What is Title IX?
It's something that's so commonly referred to, and while many may know its roots, they are likely not fully aware of its reach.
It’s a law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Obviously there were some who opposed the passing of this amendment which is part of the Higher Education Act. There are some still who oppose it. I was one of those people. Weird to read, probably, but I had a limited view of what I thought Title IX was, seemingly more of a hindrance to schools than something to propel and promote equality.
I saw men's sports being cut because universities needed to comply and instead of asking why the school couldn't balance itself and chose the easier route of cutting programs, I blamed Title IX. I was wrong. Yup, I'll admit it.
I don't think I fully appreciated the power of Title IX until recently. This act was passed in 1972. And I'm pretty sure that it just sunk in for me about six years ago. That's even weirder to think about when I tell you that I have wanted to be a television sports anchor since I was 11.
I know people say that, but honestly this is it for me.
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I'll take you back a bit before I go forward. I was in fifth grade. By that time, you are given homework in school and you had to actually do it. I mean, research it a bit, make a visual prop to accompany the assignment, that kind of stuff. I hated homework, loathed its existence and never bought into its importance.
My mom was a teacher. So that outlook didn't exactly win me any supporters on the home front, nor should it. I come home from school that day in fifth grade, and begrudgingly answer my mom when asked what my homework was: I have to decide what I want to be when I grow up. We have to talk to someone if possible who does it, and we have to find out what it takes to be in that career and on and on and on. Not happy, one bit. I had friends to catch up with, New Kids On The Block tapes to listen to and jeans to peg.
My mom, ever the optimist (which is why she was a teacher, and a great one), says, well let's see what we can come up with. She points out that I love to argue. This is true. I'm rarely wrong in my mind, and even if I am, I'll argue until I've convinced one person of my side. I'm the youngest of five kids, so this has come in handy. My mom says that people who argue for a living are lawyers and that I might be good at that. Me, being the one who dislikes homework, jumps at this chance and agrees. A lawyer it is. I'll knock out this assignment in no time and it's back to NKOTB.
I head to the trusty Encyclopedia Brittanica because that's where you did research back in the day. Really. And I found out that not only did you have to go to college for the four years, which
11-year-old me had resigned herself to, but you also have to go to law school for an additional three years after college. I closed up the “L” edition of the encyclopedia and went back to my mom.
No way. Seven years of college? I'm out. Again, the optimist wasn't giving up. My mom offered up my love of watching sports. You can do that, she said. I watched ESPN and CBS sports like they were my job so I was well aware of Lesley Visser and Robin Roberts. I loved them. But they were only two women in a sea of men. Could I possibly do that? Yup. Again, being the youngest, you don't really tell me that I can't do something.
I'll do it, even just to spite you. I'm that girl.
I researched my chosen career, and oddly enough because it was something I was so interested in, it didn't seem like homework (that feeling was short-lived, because math was still part of the curriculum). But I was hooked. I spoke with one of our local Richmond sportscasters, Ben Hamlin.
He was gracious and funny and did nothing to discourage a girl to work in that field. Fast forward a decade or so, and after attending the University of Kentucky, studying broadcast journalism, working and moving from sports anchor job to sports anchor job, I'm here.
So that brings me back to Title IX. If it did not exist, would a woman working in the sports world be not only accepted but also common? I don't think so. I believe that even though I never played a single minute of college athletics on a scholarship, I benefited from Title IX. It opened doors for women to be seen as athletes, as sports fans, and as equals in the field of athletics.
I have been lucky enough to become acquainted with one of the Title IX pioneers. And she'll probably demur when called that, but my mother-in-law, Deirdre Kane, is a pioneer. She's the first woman at the University of Dayton, from our area, growing up in South Philly before moving to New Jersey, to receive a Title IX scholarship. Deirdre played just about every sport you can imagine and was quite good, with basketball and field hockey her best. But she never imagined that she could receive money to play sports in college; it just wasn't in the cards for girls like it was for boys.
So in her final year at Dayton, the school finally implemented the legislation.
Deirdre says even she didn't view it as a landmark thing. She thought it was great that she could get money for the sports she was already playing in addition to her academic scholarship. But for her, the weight of Title IX came a little later, when after graduation she was looking for a job. She spoke at Roman Catholic about being a collegiate athlete.
Good timing, because she was hired on the spot, coaching basketball and teaching biology.
Here's the pioneer bit.
Deirdre Kane went on to coach at Camden Catholic, Swarthmore, Salisbury State and as an assistant at Penn. In 1997, she headed to West Chester and in 1988, she was the first full-time women's basketball coach in West Chester University history. Deirdre coached the Rams for 27 years and became the winningest basketball coach in WCU history.
Notice I didn't say in women's basketball history.
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She's the winningest basketball coach at WCU with 447 wins. Yeah, we tried to tell her to stay for one more season because she was only 11 wins shy of 500. But she wanted to hang out with her only grandchild, and he's pretty awesome. Of course, as his mom, I'm biased. My mother-in-law really opened my eyes about Title IX and how it affects so many.
"Title IX made my career path possible," Deirdre told me. "Until that time, college coaches of women's sports were physical education professors who coached part time. Or they were athletic administrators who coached part time. Some women served as head coach in two sports, most notably field hockey and lacrosse. Can you imagine a guy coaching soccer and baseball?
"Female athletes were being discriminated against by not having the services of their coach like the men did for offseason conditioning, weight training and skill development. Title IX forced schools to afford the same opportunities to their female athletes as their male athletes, thus opening up a slew of jobs for women in athletic-related careers -- athletic trainers, strength coaches, sports information, athletic administration and of course coaching."
It was a monster of a trickle down effect and the waterfall of successful women in sports is still rolling because Title IX isn't slowing down.
Like me, Deirdre knows there are pitfalls in Title IX and the cutting of men's sports in order to be compliant.
"There are those that suggest taking football out of the equation to determine if schools are in compliance," she said. "This would make it much easier for schools to achieve compliance since football has the most athletes, equipment, coaches -- just more everything and there is no comparable sport on the women's side. My stomach turns when sports are dropped and the finger is pointed at Title IX instead of the tremendous excesses in some programs, especially football."
I agree. But I'd rather have this issue of trying to get men's and women's athletics equal than fighting for the simple right of a young girl to play a sport.
I love me some college football, don't get me wrong. It's what we do on Saturdays. But I hope there are resolutions in the coming months and years that enable universities to keep men's programs like wrestling, swimming and diving and gymnastics. Some of those men's sports are all but gone in parts of our country.
Title IX is an amendment to the Higher Education Act.
It is a way for girls to go to college. It is a way for women to be coaches at the collegiate level. It's all of those things and it's everything that comes after.
It's everything that is tangential to its aim. It's every woman working in a press box at a stadium, arena and gymnasium. I never knew its importance, even after I was in this field.
But I'm ever thankful for its presence.