Title IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate Athletics: A Legal Overview Page: 2 of 20
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Title IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate
Athletics: A Legal Overview
Enacted over three decades ago, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs
or activities. Although the Title IX regulations bar recipients of federal financial
assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex in a wide range of educational
programs or activities, such as student admissions, scholarships, and access to
courses, the statute is perhaps best known for prohibiting sex discrimination in
Indeed, the provisions regarding athletics have proved to be one of the more
controversial aspects of Title IX. At the center of the debate is a three-part test that
the Department of Education (ED) uses to determine whether institutions are
providing nondiscriminatory athletic participation opportunities for both male and
female students. Proponents of the existing regulations point to the dramatic
increases in the number of female athletes in elementary and secondary school,
college, and beyond as the ultimate indicator of the statute's success in breaking
down barriers against women in sports. In contrast, opponents contend that the Title
IX regulations unfairly impose quotas on collegiate sports and force universities to
cut men's teams in order to remain in compliance. Critics further argue that the
decline in certain men's sports, such as wrestling, is a direct result of Title IX's
emphasis on proportionality in men's and women's college sports, and in 2002 the
National Wrestling Coaches Association filed a suit contending that the Title IX
policy is unlawful. This lawsuit, however, was dismissed by a federal judge in 2003,
and an appeals court upheld the dismissal in a ruling issued on May 14, 2004.
The debate over Title IX has escalated recently, partly in response to ED's
decision in June 2002 to appoint a commission to study Title IX and to recommend
whether or not the athletics provisions should be revised. The Commission on
Opportunity in Athletics delivered its final report to the Secretary of Education in
February 2003. In response, ED issued new guidance in July 2003 that clarifies Title
IX policy but essentially leaves the three-part test unchanged.
This CRS report provides an overview of Title IX in general and the
intercollegiate athletics regulations in particular, as well as a summary of the
Commission's report and ED's response and a discussion of recent legal challenges
to the regulations and to the three-part test. For related reports, see CRS Report
RS20460, Title IX and Gender Bias in Sports: Frequently Asked Questions, and CRS
Report RS20710, Title IX and Sex Discrimination in Education: An Overview.
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Feder, Jody. Title IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate Athletics: A Legal Overview, report, May 24, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc855734/m1/2/: accessed February 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.