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Views on Title IX Contrast Sharply

November 21, 2002|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A blue-ribbon commission Wednesday heard five hours of passionate and contradictory testimony on the volatile issue of whether Title IX, federal legislation designed to boost sports opportunities for women, has led to discrimination against men.

A parade of witnesses told the commission that numerous men's college sports teams have been dropped or trimmed back to comply with the "proportionality" rule that requires a kind of athletic parity between men and women. Because colleges have trouble filling the rosters of women's teams, they are forced to cut men's teams, witnesses said.

"If my daughter decides not to play volleyball, it should not prohibit my son from trying out for football," said Chuck Neinas, president of Neinas Sports Services.

But other witnesses -- including actress Geena Davis, an accomplished archer -- argued that without the numerical approach, there would not have been the fivefold increase in women playing sports in colleges since Title IX was adopted in 1972.

"It gives us the hammer that we unfortunately have to yield to get the changes we want," said Rosa Perez, president of Canada (Community) College in Northern California and a former Stanford softball player.

Formed by U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics is holding hearings and workshops across the country to determine whether changes should be made in Title IX.

Under the proportionality standard, if women make up, for example, 55% of the student body, they should have 55% of the athletic spots.

John Welty, president of Fresno State, said the California State University campuses have trouble filling the rosters of women's teams and have begun recruiting women from other states to play sports, while simultaneously trimming the number of spots for men to remain in compliance with the proportionality rule.

"As a member of the male species, I'm embarrassed to admit that without Title IX, women in America would not enjoy nearly the athletic opportunities they have now," said Rick Bay, athletic director at San Diego State. "That said, Title IX is not perfect and it needs a pinch of common sense."

But Andrew Zimbalist, economics professor at Smith College, said that the problem facing sports such as wrestling and tennis is not Title IX but the refusal of colleges to trim back their football programs or the $1 million-plus salaries of many football and basketball coaches.

The hearing continues today with discussion by commissioners. Chaired by Stanford Athletic Director Ted Leland and former Phoenix Mercury coach Cynthia Cooper, the commission is scheduled to provide recommendations to Paige by Jan. 31.

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