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June 19, 2013

OUR VIEW: Opening doors for women

Four decades after Title IX became the law of the land, various interests still are arguing over its implications. Some claim the law, which turns 41 years old on Sunday, has actually led to fewer opportunities for male athletes. They note that universities have opted to eliminate sports for men rather than expand the offerings for women.

They point out there are more women’s teams than men’s. The National Collegiate Athletic Association lists 9,660 women’s teams, compared to 8,530 men’s teams.

Advocates for women, though, point out there still are substantially more men competing in intercollegiate athletics. The total for males is nearly 250,000, compared to fewer than 187,000 females.

The difference is college football. Critics of the current arrangement argue that colleges have opted to devote more of their resources to football and men’s basketball than to some of the less popular sports.

The bottom line, though, is that things have gotten better for women in the 41 years since U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana helped push through the landmark legislation.

Bayh says he was inspired by his late wife, Marvella, who had been a straight-A student, class president and national speech champion in high school when she was denied admission in 1951 to the University of Virginia. Bayh says Marvella convinced him it was foolish to waste the brain power of half the population by denying women access to equal opportunity in educational institutions.

What started out as a means to compel equal access to education — especially in medical and law schools — also opened arenas of sport.

There are nearly 10 times as many females involved in intercollegiate athletics as there were in 1972; the number of girls in high school sports has jumped nearly 1,000 percent.

There also have been dramatic changes outside of sports.

In 1972, 7 percent of the law degrees and 9 percent of the medical degrees went to women; now nearly half those degrees are earned by women.

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