Title IX celebrates its 50th anniversary: Gender equality came to athletics in 1972

by Chris Karenbauer

Teresa Clark, Cedarville University’s Faculty Athletic Representative, was a student athlete when Title IX was implemented 50 years ago. She played volleyball as a student, and then she returned to Cedarville as the head coach for the volleyball team.

Title IX of the Education Amendments was adopted in 1972 to end sex discrimination. According to the Department of Education, Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”

As other colleges and universities remodeled their athletic programs to accommodate women in their athletic programs, Cedarville University – called Cedarville College at the time – did not need to change much. It was already allowing women to participate in academics and athletics.

“As a student athlete during that time, I never felt like what we were doing didn’t matter,” Clark said. “I always felt respected, and we had gym time; we were able to compete; we had our own schedule; we had transportation; we had uniforms. And so, we were respected on this campus.”

Cedarville provided equal opportunities for men and women well before 1972. But what were colleges and universities like before Title IX?

Cedarville’s Title IX coordinator Shannon Berkheiser said that, in academics, women were excluded from majors that were not considered “lady-like” or were seen as male-only, which included engineering or business. In athletics, sports were mostly for men, aside from what most people considered “feminine” like cheerleading.

Since the implementation of Title IX, women have been given the option to participate in athletics alongside their male counterparts. Berkheiser pulled numbers from the Women’s Sports Foundation. In the 1971-1972 school year before Title IX was implemented, under 30,000 women participated in college athletics. Comparatively, about 170,000 men played some kind of sport. Since the 2020-2021 school year, about 215,000 women play sports.

Before Title IX, most schools did not allow for women to play in sports or discouraged them from participating. But Cedarville University was different.

“At Cedarville, we were ahead of the curve in terms of Title IX,” said Chris Cross, the Athletic Director at Cedarville University. “We had field hockey, volleyball and cheerleading prior to 1972. Soon after 1972, in 1973, we started women’s basketball. So, we were providing opportunities at Cedarville well before Title IX was enacted.”

Clark attributes Cedarville’s commitment to the Bible for this forward thinking.

“We look at the Word of God, and it tells us, ‘Respect everyone’,” she said. “God has created everyone, and we are to embrace that.”

Since Title IX was implemented, Cedarville has expanded its athletic programs by adding a women’s soccer, softball, women’s cross country and track, and more.

Lisi Williamson, a junior soccer player, said, “I think, generally, I do not believe my experience has been tainted by sexism. However, coming in my freshman year, there was one situation that was completely unfair, and just got resolved this year.”

During her sophomore year, the athletic department was supposed to construct a women’s locker room for the soccer players, which was part of Cedarville’s 10-year plan. However, only the men’s soccer locker room got renovated.

“Fortunately, we had one representative that was just about as livid as we were and fought for us to at least get a new space,” Williamson said. “It took two years, but finally this year we were in our own space. It’s not as pretty or spacious like the men’s locker rooms, but it is our own space.”

Despite some struggles, Cedarville does a good job in allowing women to participate in athletics, and with Title IX, all colleges and universities under the National Collegiate Athletic Association are required to do the same.

According to the NCAA, Title IX requires institutions to give men and women equal opportunities in the athletic programs. This does not mean that sport needs to offer a men’s and women’s team; they only need to offer an equal opportunity to play.

The NCAA also requires all institutions to treat male and female athletes equally, including providing scholarships proportional to the male to female ratio who attend the institution. Other benefits include gym equipment and supplies, equal schedule and practice times, travel allowances and stipends for each team, among other things.

Even now, the NCAA faces discrepancies with male and female athletics. For example, the media covers NCAA’s men’s March Madness far more than they cover women’s basketball. Is it the NCAA’s fault?

According to Cross, March Madness generates most of the NCAA’s funding for the year. Sponsors and advertisers focus on men’s basketball, but they do not focus on women’s basketball as much. Whether it’s right or wrong, money speaks volumes in athletics.

“At times, there might be an element of discrimination that has led to those things,” Berkheiser said. “But often, there is a bigger picture, and a large part of that is money. More people are willing to pay more money to go to a men’s basketball game on average than to a women’s basketball game; they are more likely to bet on the men’s games than the women’s games. So, those are bigger issues than just the NCAA and much bigger than just an institution.”

Every year, Cedarville reassesses its athletic finances to give equal opportunity to both men and women. Last year, the school population of women to men was 54-46. This year, the gap decreased to 52-48 women to men.

“That gap became narrower, more skewed to the male side,” Cross said. “But we have traditionally given more financial aid to our women’s sports than we have to our male sports by a good margin.”

Berkheiser believes that athletics begin with children and high school students. They feed colleges and universities with athletes, so education on gender discrimination needs begins with the younger demographics.

“Engage with parents,” Berkheiser said. “Talk about their desires and what they are wanting. Engage with people who have a position of influence, who can help support their ideas and move them along.”

Everyone, whether man or woman, deserves an equal opportunity to become great sports players. Title IX gives that opportunity to allow women to achieve their dreams in athletics and academics.

“Providing opportunities for our young women is important,” Cross said. “Athletics provides a whole host of positive experiences that young ladies should be taking advantage of, and we should be providing.”

Women’s Sport Foundation (For design)

NCAA Title IX requirements

Chris Karenbauer is a senior Journalism major and the Editor-in-Chief for Cedars. She enjoys reading and writing, hanging out with friends and listening to music.

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