"I am celebrating Title IX because it gives women the right to play sports and to receive a quality and equitable education."
- Ashlyn Baugher
What Title IX Means to Me | Positive Coaching Alliance

Championing Women's Opportunities in Sports

Inequalities in women’s sports remain since the original passage of Title IX. Former and current student athletes describe some of the inequities they experienced and witnessed while playing sports at the collegiate level. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic athlete and CEO of Champion Women, is working to address these issues by helping female athletes understand their rights and how their institutions need to change. 

Navigating Inequalities in Title IX Sports

“I feel like it’s really unfair to female athletes because sometimes our sport is bringing in more money than some of the male sports. If we both make it to NCAA tournaments, the females don’t get as much apparel or facilities,” senior Lock Haven University lacrosse player, Dana Mirigliano, said.

In the U.S., female athletes are discriminated against at the college level and given fewer opportunities than male athletes, despite this treatment being unlawful under Title IX. According to statistics from Champion Women, “97.2% of universities and colleges discriminate against women’s opportunities in sports.” Female athletes are affected at all three divisions, but especially in D1 and D2 schools, since sports are valued at higher stakes and are more competitive.

Champion Women is a non-profit organization that provides legal advice and advocacy services in support of women in sports. It was founded in 2014 by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Hogshead-Makar and her team at Champion Women work with athletes who are fighting for justice in sports.

Many female athletes like Mirigliano view their sport as a positive outlet and use it to let their abilities shine. “We know that having a sports experience is a game changer for a woman's life for the rest of her life,” Hogshead-Makar said. So, denying women these 225 sports opportunities in college and $1.1 billion in athletic scholarships, you're missing out on who women can be.” The number 225 refers to the estimated amount of opportunities being missed out on in colleges across the U.S., even since the passing of Title IX back in 1972.

Champion Women works to determine how colleges and universities, in particular, are distributing scholarships to their student athletes and whether that is happening across men’s and women’s teams in an equal and fair manner.

Although universities can be quick to blame for how scholarships are dispersed to women versus men, the NCAA is in charge of what can be handed out. “The NCAA only allows them to give a certain number of scholarships. So they pick sports that are scholarship light for women,” Hogshead-Makar said.

Scholarships aren’t appropriated for women as much as men. As a result, according to the National Women’s Law Center, women playing in Division I-FBS schools only receive “about 18 percent of the total money spent on athletics, 29 percent of recruiting dollars, and 41 percent of athletic scholarship dollars.” There is still an ongoing battle in the way the NCAA allocates an equal measure of funds to female athletes.

Aside from the NCAA, the concept of the “Olympic Movement,” has been something that Hogshead-Makar and her non-profit have been focused on and are in the process of writing and reporting about. This movement includes the Ted Steves Amateur Sports Act that was passed in 1978 and its charge was “working to establish the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for each individual sport, as well as providing legal protection for individual athletes.” The Olympic Movement’s goal is to stick to the values of Olympism and to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport.” Hogshead-Makar is using this legislation to educate those who are involved and participating in sports, and she is using it to help females access the benefits they deserve.

Alongside her colleagues, Hogshead-Makar also goes to schools and colleges and speaks to athletes about Title IX. She offers insights to how it is implemented and works to assist those who are being discriminated against based on sex. Hogshead-Makar expressed that when she enters these schools, she is shocked by how few people are aware of Title IX and its protections, consequences and limitations.

Discrimination of female athletes does not only pertain to scholarship funds, it also applies to the inequalities between men’s and women’s sports, facilities, game-day transportation arrangements, and field locations for practice.

Junior Cabrini Softball player, Dorian Ilyes, has experienced the disparity in field locations first-hand. “You take a look at our field or what our field used to be. And you compare it to the baseball field or the lacrosse field, or any other fields, and you see the big difference between the two,” Ilyes said.

Likewise, school officials discriminated against female athletes on the water polo team attending James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. In their 2018 lawsuit, they mentioned how they were not able to utilize the school’s locker room, ran into issues with transportation, where they were practicing, and much more.

According to a report on the case in the Washington Post, “During the 2017-18 school year, Campbell’s girls’ water polo team was allegedly not given a pool to practice in at the start of the season. Instead, they practiced at a nearby beach, buffeted by currents in the ocean.”

The girls at James Campbell took legal action. Their lawsuit resulted in a settlement that required the school’s staff to follow training under Title IX and ensure that something like this will never occur again to the girls at that high school.

The story of the water polo team may be a glimpse into Title IX’s future and how it may continue to grow to break barriers to push more women to speak out against discrimination.

“We should be promoting women's sports as much as males, so women have a chance to play sports that they love,” Mirigliano said.

Disproportionate Opportunities for Women in Sports

Women have long endured disproportionate opportunities in collegiate athletics despite the promises of Title IX. The root causes of these disparities can include the caveats that donors place on the allotment of their funds, as well as favoritism shown by schools to the top revenue-producing sports, according to Lynn Klingensmith, Director for Equity and Compliance, Title IX and ADA Coordinator at West Chester University. Champion Women is an organization working to address these inequities and bring change to fruition.

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