The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics considered about two dozen recommendations for Title IX during two days of sometimes contentious meetings. The most sweeping recommendations failed to pass -- one proposal produced a 7-7 tie -- but the panel endorsed allowing the Education Department to tinker with the ways students and athletes are counted to measure compliance with the law.
The advisory commission will forward its report to Education Secretary Rod Paige, who will consider the recommendations. It takes an act of Congress to fundamentally change the law, but Paige can alter the way compliance is measured.
Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in public and private schools that receive federal funding, which almost all do. It covers admissions, recruitment, course offerings, counseling, financial aid, student health and student housing, as well as athletics.
The commission only looked at sports, where the laws effect has been profound. The number of girls participating in high school sports rose from 294,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million in 2002. The number of women in college sports increased fivefold during the same time.
But about 400 mens college teams were eliminated during the 1990s as schools attempted to meet standards requiring a ratio of male and female athletes similar to the overall student population. Eastern Washington University cut their mens golf team last year in part to comply with Title IX as did Portland State.
The commission recommended several changes to a standard that allows schools to comply by having a male-female athlete ratio that is substantially proportionate to its male-female enrollment. The changes deal with roster spots, nonscholarship athletics and nontraditional students.
The commission has opened the door for the secretary to do a lot of damage to Title IX, said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Womens Sports Foundation. They changed the way of counting collegiate participation. The number of male athletes will be deflated; the number of female athletes will be inflated.
One change would establish a predetermined number of roster spots on each team that count toward Title IX compliance, rather than the actual number of athletes on a team.
Commission co-chairman Ted Leland, athletic director at Stanford, said the rule would prevent a school from stacking 100 women on the rowing team to comply with the law.
Critics countered that the rule could allow a school to add scores of male athletes -- notably non-scholarship walk-ons -- beyond the preset limits without them counting toward Title IX compliance.
The commission went further on the issue of unrecruited walk-ons and nontraditional students -- such as those who are part-time -- recommending that none be counted as part of the Title IX total. The change would mostly affect smaller schools, particularly community colleges, although some Division I schools would be affected.
The 7-7 vote came on a revamped proposal by Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow to allow schools to comply by having a 50-50 split of male and female athletes, regardless of the student body makeup, with a leeway of 2 to 3 percentage points. Her earlier proposal called for a leeway of 5 to 7 percentage points.
Although most of the commissioners seemed in favor of changing the proportionality standard, their proposals were so varied that none could muster a majority. The most sweeping would have eliminated the proportionality requirement altogether. It failed 11-4.
Members of the Title IX commission
' Cynthia Cooper (co-chair), former WNBA player and coach and the leagues all-time leading scorer
' Ted Leland (co-chair), Stanford University athletic director
' Percy Bates, University of Michigan professor and director of programs for educational opportunities
' Bob Bowlsby, University of Iowa athletic director
' Gene DeFilippo Jr., Boston College athletic director
' Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medal swimmer; broadcaster
' Julie Foudy, president of the Womens Sports Foundation; U.S. national womens soccer team captain
' Thomas Griffith, Brigham Young University general counsel
' Cary Groth, Northern Illinois University athletic director
' Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive officer of Education Leaders Council
' Muffet McGraw, University of Notre Dame womens basketball coach
' Rita J. Simon, American University professor; founder and president of the Womens Freedom Network
' Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference commissioner
' Graham Spanier, Penn State University president
' Debbie Yow, University of Maryland athletic director
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