Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Signed into law in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was designed to eliminate gender discrimination throughout the American educational system. Title IX applied to all educational programs at any level of schooling including admissions, financial aid, academic programs, and social organizations. However, Title IX has primarily been associated with college sports. Since 1972, female participation in intercollegiate athletics has increased dramatically. Yet additional opportunities for
women in sports have not come easily. Significant battles between university leaders and the government about how this piece of legislation was to be enforced have persisted throughout the decades since passage of Title IX.
The first ten years after Title IX was enacted marked the height of controversy over women's athletics and gender equality. The Title IX Era (1972-1982) in the Big Ten clearly highlighted the practical challenges of achieving gender equity in athletics. While certain administrators undoubtedly held chauvinistic positions, it is equally clear that these attitudes were not the sole reason for the slow development of women's sports. The stilted growth of women's athletics at these institutions was directly related to the financial and logistical burdens of adding an entirely new program. Thus, during the Title IX Era, Big Ten officials were less focused on limiting female participation in sports than on the legitimate practical issues they faced.
More importantly, the controversy over Title IX also revealed the limits of
government involvement in higher education. Big Ten leaders opposed the rules established by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and rejected the notion that the federal government could tell them how to run their program. However, these same officials consistently argued that their opposition to HEW's Title IX regulations did not mean that they were against the ideal of gender equality in athletics.
Ultimately, response to Title IX in the Big Ten was based on administrators' assertions that they supported the spirit of equality, while at the same time denouncing the letter of the law as dictated by the government.