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Panel Named To Study Title IX
Law's Fairness To Be Examined

By Valerie Strauss and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 28, 2002; Page A27

The Bush administration announced yesterday the creation of a blue-ribbon panel to reevaluate the landmark federal law that changed college athletics by banning sex discrimination in sports programs and providing greater opportunity for women.

Officials said the creation of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics is aimed at ensuring fairness for both sexes. Proponents of the law charged that the panel is a new attempt to weaken the landmark Title IX law after repeated court challenges over the past 30 years have failed.

Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige announced the panel at a Senate committee hearing during which he hailed the success of Title IX. But he also said the administration has concerns that enforcement of the law has gone too far in expanding opportunities for women at the expense of some men's teams.

"Some would like to settle this in the courts," Paige said. "But we believe the better approach is to discuss all the questions openly, in a forum where all voices and all viewpoints can be heard."

Title IX proponents called the panel unnecessary and said they fear that strong supporters of the law who are among the 15 panel members will be given little voice. "If the administration wants to improve Title IX, it should strengthen enforcement of the law and policies already on the books," said Marcia Greenberger, president of the Washington-based National Women's Law Center.

A White House official maintained that the commission is not stacked with Title IX opponents. "It's a broad array of independent-thinking people that are committed to the law and want to make it work," the official said.

The panel includes strong Title IX supporters Donna De Varona and Julie Foudy. De Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, is chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Government Relations Committee and co-founder of the Women's Sports Foundation. Foudy is president of the Women's Sports Foundation and captain of the U.S. national women's soccer team. Neither was available for comment yesterday.

"Sometimes you go into something like this thinking you have the answers and you don't," said Deborah A. Yow, director of athletics at the University of Maryland, who added that Title IX helped her win a job coaching college sports in the mid-1970s.

The panel will be headed by former WNBA star Cynthia Cooper and Ted Leland, director of athletics at Stanford University. The panel will conduct public hearings and take public testimony before issuing recommendations on changes for Title IX.

Title IX bars sex discrimination in all aspects of federally funded education, but it is best known for expanding opportunities for women and girls in sports. It requires institutions to offer male and female students equal opportunities to participate in sports, to allocate scholarship dollars equitably, and to treat male and female students fairly in all aspects of athletics.

In 1972, fewer than 32,000 women competed in intercollegiate athletics and women received 2 percent of schools' athletic budgets. Athletic scholarships for women were nonexistent. Today, the number of college women participating in competitive athletics is nearly five times as great. High school female sports participation has increased 800 percent.

Still, while women make up more than half the undergraduates in colleges and universities, they make up 42 percent of college varsity athletes nationwide.

Critics of Title IX said that 355 men's college athletic teams have been eliminated over the past decade, equating to more than 22,000 spots. Last January, the National Wrestling Coaches Association and other groups filed suit, asking a federal court to invalidate Title IX.

The wrestlers argued that Title IX policies impose quotas and unlawfully discriminate against men. The administration declined to comment on the merits of the lawsuit last month, arguing only that the suit should be dismissed on procedural grounds.

Mike Moyers, executive director of the coaches association, said he supported the panel and was "extremely encouraged" that the issue had been raised to such a high level. But he said he was disappointed that the coaches of male teams in the four sports most directly affected -- swimming, wrestling, track and gymnastics -- were not given a seat at the table.

The National Women's Law Center contends that the law does not impose quotas and that a school can comply with Title IX simply by showing that it is trying to expand opportunities for female athletes.

Just four days ago, President Bush saluted the law as an "important milestone in our country." But the Republican National Committee's platform for the 2000 election stated that the party supports "a reasonable approach to Title IX that seeks to expand opportunities for women without adversely affecting men's teams."

Last March, Bush appointed Gerald Reynolds, who has publicly questioned the validity of Title IX's athletics policies, to head the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), July 06, 2002


-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), July 06, 2002.

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