A Forbes story this month suggest that despite a common criticism from observers, studies show that Title IX requirements are not causing schools to cut men’s sports.
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that outlaws sex-based discrimination in educational programs. Despite that broad umbrella, public discussion of Title IX almost always centers on athletics, which are considered educational programs when tied to high schools or universities.
In the late 1970s, officials created a three-prong test to help enforce Title IX within the sphere of school-based athletics. An educational institution must meet at least one of the three prongs of the test. Here are the three prongs, as laid out by the Forbes piece:
- Proportionality Test: “provides a composition of athletic opportunities to men and women that is proportional to the gender composition of the student body.”
- Program Expansion Test: “demonstrate consistent program expansion for women.”
- Accommodation of Interest Tests: “show accommodation of student interests or abilities”
Many fans and observers suggest that in order to have equal opportunities for men and women, schools are cutting men’s sport opportunities rather than increasing opportunities for women. But the Forbes story runs through several key studies suggesting that may not be the case.
The Forbes piece runs through the logic behind the argument that Title IX is hurting men’s sports. Women’s sports are typically lower-revenue than their men’s sport counterparts, which could cause schools to cut non-revenue men’s sports to make financial space for women’s programs. But the Forbes piece cites a study from Daniel Marburger and Nancy Hogshead-Makar (an Olympic swimmer in 1984) noting that Division III schools had actually added men’s programs, while the cuts to non-revenue men’s sports were happening at the Division I level. Another writer, Katie Lee, argues that non-revenue men’s sports are being cut to funnel more money into revenue men’s sports, not to create space for women’s sports.
The Forbes piece also suggests that even if schools are out of compliance with the first prong of the test – as many schools still are – they can still gain Title IX compliance by showing progress in expanding women’s sport opportunities or showing a lack of interest in specific women’s sports among their student body. That leaves schools a way to earn Title IX compliance without cutting men’s sports to offset women’s programs equally.