By Helen Grant
As we all remember, President Obama’s campaign platform was based on “CHANGE”. We in the world of intercollegiate athletics are waiting to see if or how President Obama implements his “CHANGE” platform in the sports world (and we don’t mean a playoff in football).
It is uncertain, to date, what his impact will be on Title IX enforcement. He has stated that he will ask the Office for Civil Rights, which is the arm of the Department of Education that oversees Title IX enforcement, to be proactive in pursuing equality in sports for women.
To that end, he has appointed a new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali. These two appointees give us little information regarding President Obama’s commitment to Title IX enforcement. Both have extensive and impressive backgrounds in providing equal and fair opportunities for a quality education to minorities (African American, Latino, and Native American) and low income students, with very little mention of Title IX compliance. However, Mr. Duncan was a former basketball student-athlete at Harvard University and professional basketball player in Australia. He has also served on the Board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Foundation.
There are several known facts regarding Title IX compliance/enforcement at this early stage of President Obama’s Presidential tenure.
First, he did establish a White House Council on Women and Girls and said that he wanted this Council to not only continue to support equal opportunities for women, but to find ways to enhance those opportunities. He also is supportive of the High School Sports Information Act, which requires high schools to make public a report on the equality of sports, much like the EADA report that colleges and universities are required to submit.
Second, and very obvious, President Obama has two daughters and has stated that one would like to play basketball.
Third, OCR initiated compliance reviews at two NCAA Division I institutions within the last year. What is not known is whether or not this activity was in anticipation that it (OCR) is going to be asked to become more active in initiating Title IX compliance reviews and responding to Title IX complaints. In the most recent report to Congress, OCR reported that there had been 328 Title IX complaints lodged in 2008. This lead to the initiation of 19 compliance reviews by OCR. Also, during 2008, 16 cases, including cases carried over from previous years, were resolved. An article found on TitleIX.info.com reported that there had been 416 Title IX athletics complaints filed with OCR from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2006 and that OCR initiated only one compliance review during that time. This certainly indicates that OCR is becoming more active in dealing with Title IX enforcement.
Last, and quite possibly the most important fact that has become known, is that 14 universities have cut more than 20 sports programs in recent months. Obviously, the failing economy has caused the cost of operating an intercollegiate athletic team to escalate, and, at the same time, financial support of athletics programs has plummeted. However, due to the fact that the majority of the programs cut were male programs, one would think that Title IX compliance was at least a thought in determining what sports should be cut.
We all know that President Obama has had many other very important issues to deal with (i.e. economy, testing missiles, etc.) since his inauguration. His campaign platform based on “CHANGE” and what he has done in his short time in the Oval Office should indicate that he will, at least, ask the Department of Education and OCR to continue to grow its involvement with and be proactive in the enforcement of Title IX.
Helen Grant is the principal of Helen Grant Consulting, a Mississippi-based firm that specializes in Title IX program reviews and consulting. Grant began her career in athletics at the University of Southern Mississippi where she spent six years as the head volleyball and tennis coach, then five years as the head volleyball and softball coach. She moved from the coaching ranks to athletic administration where she spent the next nine years as an assistant or associate athletic director. As an administrator she has been a Senior Woman Administrator, NCAA compliance coordinator, director of the Student-Athlete Academic Support Services, sport administrator for all Olympic sports, and athletic department human resources coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org