Friday, June 24, 2022

More On Title IX

TigerBlog wrote about the 50th anniversary of Title IX yesterday.

The actual 50th anniversary of the signing of the legislation was yesterday. While it's not clear to TB that this was the original intent of the law, Title IX has done an extraordinary job of creating opportunities in athletics for girls and women.

He read a story yesterday that said that there has been a 1,057 percent increase in participation in high school sports for girls and a 614 percent increase in participation in college sports by women since Title IX was enacted. 

When TB read that, he thought immediately of Carol Brown, one of the great early women athletes at Princeton. Actually, you can change that to simply one of the great women athletes Princeton has ever had.

Brown, who was on the first swimming and rowing teams for women at Princeton, won a a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics as a rower. She was poised to win gold in 1980 before the boycott of the Games by the United States.

What makes her story even more amazing is the fact that she was not a high school athlete. This is an excerpt from TB's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton:

She spent the first twelve years of her life in the Philadelphia suburbs before the family moved to Illinois. It was there that a law – a real, genuine, on-the-books-for-decades law – made it illegal for girls to play high school sports. Because of that, she spent most her time singing in choirs and playing four musical instruments. Her athletic experience was limited to summer swim club teams. “It wasn’t like there were some sports for girls,” she says. “There were none. It just wasn’t there. It also wasn’t like my friends were doing them either. Nobody was. They didn’t exist. Maybe if they had, I wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble in school. I was always in trouble for talking and being disruptive.”

There was really a law that prohibited girls from playing high school sports. That's astonishing.

The same story that mentioned the rise in participation also said that less than one percent of college athletic budgets went to women's sports programs at the time of Title IX. TB couldn't find the percentage today, and it's definitely skewed by football spending anyway, but it's way, way higher than one percent obviously.

When women's athletics began at Princeton, there was a five-year plan to implement varsity competition. As a result, there was no immediate budget for the women, who actually began to compete in weeks, not years, which meant that funding everything and anything had to be done on the fly.

Speaking of coaches, at the time Title IX became the law, essentially 90 percent of coaches for women's college teams were women. Today? That number is 42 percent.

That is something that TB wouldn't have guessed.

Which two sports have the highest percentage of women who coach the women's teams? That would be field hockey and lacrosse, which is probably explainable at least partly because field hockey isn't a sport that is widely played by men in this country and the way lacrosse is played by men and women is very different. 

Princeton has 19 varsity sports for women (including rugby, which has its varsity debut season this year), of which six have men who are the head coach: cross country, water polo, fencing, soccer, swimming and diving and lightweight rowing. 

The first full year of women's athletics at Princeton was 1971-72, with the first six varsity teams (there had been two tennis players, a swimmer and diver and then a full tennis team who competed in 1970-71). Of those first six teams, four were coached by women and two by men, which is the same basic percentage as now.

As TB said yesterday, Title IX has been the driving force for change in athletics for women. The participation numbers show that clearly. 

It's an anniversary well worth celebrating. And TB will leave you with this, also from his book, about the immediate aftermath of when the law was signed and two early women athletes, Janet Youngholm and Abby Rubenfeld:

In what might have been the defining moment for Title IX at Princeton, Janet Youngholm almost played a third sport besides basketball and rowing. Or at least, she wanted the chance to play that third sport. It happened after the passage of the law in 1972. She pushed back on a Princeton rule that said that women could not play on men’s teams in contact sports after an ECAC and NCAA rule removed all reference to sex from the regulations. If anyone was going to address the issue, it would be Youngholm, along with another early woman athlete, Abby Rubenfeld.


Youngholm was a born fighter who always stood up for her beliefs and what she thought was right. She rowed into Newark Bay to try to prevent a munitions ship from leaving to go to Vietnam; she and her fellow protestors were hauled in by the Coast Guard using hooks on the sides of their boats. She was also arrested in Princeton at one Vietnam War protest and had to pay a $100 fine in order to get released in Trenton and back to campus in time for rowing practice.


“I think I still owe them some money,” she says, again laughing. When she tells the rest of the story, though, she is deadly serious. Youngholm and Rubenfeld were big football fans. Rubenfeld, for her part, had played flag football in high school in Florida. On Princeton football gamedays, they would throw a football around, head into Palmer Stadium for the game, and then go back to throwing their own ball around, joking that they could probably play for the team. Then, when Princeton, with the rest of the Ivy League, announced the rule that women could not play contact sports with men, things took a different turn, especially after quotes like this one, from a medical doctor no less, began to appear in newspapers such as the New York Times: “I am concerned about the lack of adequate protection for the breasts and their post-reproductive function of feeding.”To Youngholm and Rubenfeld, it wasn’t about playing contact sports. The issue was equality. To challenge this, the two women set their sights on playing on the lightweight football team, or more exactly, having the University affirm that they had the right to play on the lightweight football team, if they wanted. First Youngholm and Rubenfeld met with Baker, who said that it was a University policy, not an athletic department one. Director of Athletics Royce Flippin said pretty much the same. That left them in the office of Dean Adele Simmons, which didn’t get them anywhere either.


“Title IX had passed,” she said. “Now we had the law on our side. We said that they couldn’t do this. It wasn’t right. Abby and I got on a train and went into New York and spoke to a lawyer. We asked [the directors and Dean Simmons] again, and again they said ‘no,’ so we said ‘okay, the next person you’ll hear from is our lawyer. Then the dean said ‘wait,’ and we sat down again. We told her that if they got that rule off the books, then that’ll be that. And they did. The point wasn’t playing football. It was having them say ‘no, you can’t.’ There was a larger point to be made. Context matters. If we had to make the point by going out for lightweight football, then we would have.”

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