NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Misinterpreting Title IX

January 30, 2003

Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal assistance, has been under review by a committee appointed by the Bush administration to determine if it needs revision. At issue is whether, as applied, it is shortchanging men's athletic programs at colleges and universities.

There are complaints that a policy interpretation in 1979 by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights sets up gender quotas which favor women's sports programs over men's -- due to the fact that women predominate, numerically, on college campuses.

  • On average, females make up 56 percent of college enrollments, while males comprise 44 percent.
  • So under a rule of proportionality, more money and support must go to women's sports events than to men's -- even though women are less inclined than men to engage in sports activities, by a ratio estimated at 3-to-1 or 4-to-1.
  • The interpretation of the rule has particularly been disadvantageous to men's wrestling teams -- which argue that 1996 rules exceed the Department of Education's statutory authority "by effectively mandating the very discrimination that Title IX prohibits."

The impact on wrestling programs has been devastating. Men's wrestling has been gaining in popularity at the high school level -- with nearly 250,000 participants. Yet less than 6,000 competed in National Collegiate Association events. In fact, there was only one spot for every 41 high-school wrestlers.

Source: John Irving, "Wrestling With Title IX," New York Times, January 28, 2003.


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