You play ball like a girl.
Growing up, this may have been an insult. But as you pass by the turf of Geasey Field or take a seat at the Liacouras Center, you see many female athletes capitalizing on their opportunity to compete. And while men have always had the opportunity to participate in college athletics, not until the creation of Title IX were women widely allowed to do the same.
Since the inception of Title IX in 1972, the collegiate domain has been a place for women to fight for gender equality. Now, in the law’s third decade of existence, the number of women seizing the opportunity to play sports has never been higher.
The NCAA released the results of its 2002-03 Gender Equity Report last week. It indicated large gains in women’s athletics over the past decade. According to the study, female student-athlete participation in Division I-A athletics increased 13 percent. In 1991-92, women competed at 31-percent rate; in 2002-03, 44 percent of I-A athletes were women.
Along with actual participants, the amount of money being used for women’s athletics also increased. While men still receive the bulk of scholarship money, female athletes now receive 42 percent of scholarship money, and that number is continually increasing. Over the past twelve years, the increase in recruiting expenses is greater for women’s sports than for men’s sports. Women’s programs spend over $115,000 more than they did a decade ago.
“We’ve seen minimal gains in the last few years and large gains overall in the last decade, which means improvement is occurring, but we must do better in our efforts to achieve equity in a timelier manner,” Judy Sweet, NCAA senior administrator, said in a press release.
Examples of equity being achieved are often seen in this sports section.
The women’s basketball is nationally ranked and undefeated in its conference. The Owls are on their way to their third NCAA Tournament berth in four years.
The women’s gymnastics team advanced to its second straight USAG Championships last year and had its best record since 1995. Thanks to a strong recruiting class, the Owls are in the midst of improving upon the success they had last year.
The lacrosse team will head to the turf this year as four-time defending Atlantic Ten Conference champions, playing for a seventh year of either winning or sharing the A-10 title.
The softball team–led by last year’s A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, pitcher Richelle Villescas–is just beginning the defense of its A-10 crown.
Opportunities aren’t being seized; they’re being conquered.
While Title IX’s impact on athletic opportunities is well documented, the law has opened up other doors. According to a 1997 study done by the Department of Education, 18 percent of women and 26 percent of men earned four-year degrees in 1971. By 1994, 25 years after the induction of Title IX, women matched men at 27 percent. Eighty percent of female managers of Fortune 500 companies have an athletic background.
The opportunities that Title IX has presented to women can be seen near and far. The continuing increase of female student-athletes on the collegiate level not only promotes equity on the athletic field, but promotes equity in the real world.
Whether through a dribble, dismount, or double-play, female student-athletes are making sure no opportunity goes without being seized.
Greg Otto can be reached at email@example.com.