STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN TED STEVENS
SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
HEARING ON WOMEN IN SPORTS
FEBRUARY 1, 2006
We’re told there are other Senators who are coming. We wanted to wait for them, but I think we should get started.
I’m delighted to see so many of you here and I know many of you have traveled a long distance to get here, so we thank you for coming today.
I especially want to welcome back my great friend Donna de Varona. Takes you back a lot of years doesn’t it Donna? We were working on the Olympic Sports Act and Donna was an assistant to the former Chair, Chairman Warren Magnuson at that time. And, you’ve served in many leadership and advisory roles, including our membership in President Ford’s Commission on Olympic Sports. Donna has to be blamed for my involvement in this, because she just kept after me to keep working on it.
We want to continue to hold these hearings to make sure that we focus on the need to promote and advance the participation of women in sports. And we want to assure that Americans have a chance to understand the historic strides that have been made and the challenges that still face female athletes and athletic programs, not only in the schools and universities, but in professional sports.
This is the 20th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. We come together to recognize the achievements of women in sports, the positive influences of sports participation on our American women, and the continuing struggle for equality and opportunity for women in sports.
It has been my privilege and honor to be able to work with all of you who really believe in equality in sports. As I’ve told many people many times, as the father of three daughters, I remember so well the day when I was then a coach in little league. Donna knows this story. My girls practiced with the young boys in getting ready for the team activities. When it came time to pick the team, I had to tell them they couldn’t play. And one of my daughters said, “Sue them Daddy.” I said, “Look, I don’t have time to be a little league coach and to file lawsuits and to earn enough money to feed all you guys, so that will have to wait.”
But when we got here, I was pleased to join Birch Bayh, whom I consider to be as much involved as I’ve been over the years. And, since that time we’ve had great accomplishments with our female athletes in the United States, great strides in athletics, including Sarah Korad, who will become the first U.S. female winter athlete to ever qualify for two sports for the same Olympic Games, in both biathlon and cross country skiing.
We have a lot of interest in what you do and I do commend the Administration’s support of physical fitness programs to address the growing obesity rate and sedentary lifestyle of men and women in this country. I am also concerned, however, about the future of Title IX.
And, I hope that you will keep active to make certain people understand what would happen if we would reverse the decades of progress that have been made since Title IX’s inception in 1972.
Women’s participation in athletics has increased 400 percent at the college level and 800 percent in high schools.
Many of you here are pioneers of this effort and I am glad to have an opportunity to have you come back together and meet with us.
Additional comments after Panel I witness testimony:
Well, thank you very much. We’ve got another panel, so I would like to ask our colleagues to limit our comments or questions to five minutes for this panel if that’s agreeable. I want to tell you without any question, I believe we’ve reached a point now where we do have to schedule a hearing on Title IX and this Committee will pursue that with the Administration, Department of Education, and others who should come and explain to us what they’re doing. We also are going to have to hold a hearing with the Olympic Committee, I feel. As Donna knows, I’m Chairman of the Interparliamentary Conference with China. I think we should make certain that China does not make the same mistake that’s been made as far as the actions taken by the Olympic Committee (for 2012). By 2008, we ought to make sure that they include softball. I’m told men’s baseball was also taken off. So, that ought to be easily remedied. In my opinion, both were mistakes. I’m going to desist from asking questions because I want to hear the others.
I do thank you all for your participation. I must say to you that I’m appalled at the reaction that’s taking place now on Title IX. It’s sort of a replay of what went on before though. It’s just another generation saying, “Hey, wait, we need more money for men. You’re taking money from men’s programs.” It has to be shown that’s not true.
My comment to you and to all of you here who have supported Title IX is, you’ve got a lot of work to do too, because I don’t there is enough talk at home and with husbands, and boyfriends, and fathers, and all of your friends who are women and are interested in sports to understand the problem that exists out there. There are more women in college now and universities than there are men. However, there are groups of both men and women who do not intend to be involved in sports. I think we have to find some way to assure that there is an allocation to women who do want to be involved, and men too. It may vary by university. You may not agree with that, but I think the division ought to be on the basis of the people who are going to participate in sports and make sure that there is equality in terms of that. If there are more women than there are men who are going to be involved in sports then they ought to get more money, and if there are less they should recognize that they should have less because there are more men involved. I do think we have to find a way to get a better enforcement of what Title IX meant and that was that there would be equality in terms of availability of funds for women in sports at all levels.
And, I again go back and honor Carol White, because she was the one who got the research done that proved what has happened since the school districts of the country abandoned physical education in kindergarten through the 12th grade. That to me is the worst mistake our country has ever made, and I think as we emphasize Title IX we have to go back and emphasize the need for daily physical education for those children, particularly in those early years. Because, unless they get the discipline, unless they get how great it feels to exercise, they’re not going to want to be part of your organizations as they get older.
I thank all of you for coming.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Dorothy RichardsonU.S. Olympian and Vice ChairPresident's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Ms. Donna de VaronaU.S. Olympian and Sports Commentator
February 1, 2006
Good Morning, I am Donna de Varona. I want to thank the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for inviting me to testify today, and I ask that my written statement and attachments be included in the record.
My relationship with Washington and Congress dates back to the 1960s, when after returning from the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, I was appointed to my first of four terms on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Back then I spent my summers working in intercity programs with children. I have also served on the United States Olympic Committee and the Boards of the Special Olympics, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. I was a member of President Ford’s Commission on Olympic Sports and President Carter’s Women’s Advisory Commission. From 1976 to 1978, I was a special consultant to the U.S. Senate on sports matters, and most recently I served as a Commissioner on Secretary of Education Roderick Paige’s Opportunity in Athletics Commission. Subsequently, I was appointed to a Senate task force to help recommend a comprehensive plan to restructure the United States Olympic Committee.
Today we have been asked to address the status of women in sport both in the areas of promotion and opportunities. Although women and young girls have come a long way since the passage of Title IX some thirty four years ago, there is still a lot to do. The framers of the legislation and later on the guidelines understood that mandating equality in opportunity could not happen overnight, and that is the reason why the guidelines and the three-part participation test are crafted the way they are. The guidelines and the test are flexible and fair. History has painted a picture of tremendous growth and acceptance of the female athlete, but she still battles the perception that girls and women are inherently less interested in sports than men and that providing women with opportunities cheats men out of resources. The argument pits young men and women against each other, and claims like these, as well as widespread non-compliance with Title IX in schools across the country have resulted in women being treated like second-class citizens on the playing field. For example, although on average women are 54% of the students in colleges, they receive only 43% of the sports participation opportunities, 38% of athletic operating dollars and 33% of the money spent on recruitment. At the high school level, girls represent only 42% of varsity athletes. In addition, women and girls continue to face discrimination at all levels of education and in community, recreational and professional sports programs, including in coverage of these programs by the media. With respect to promotion, the lifeblood of any sport, a study of national and regional papers revealed that women receive only about 7 to 9 percent of the space in the sports sections and less than that in air time.
While girls and women can perform on the athletic stage, they still do not run a major sports broadcast network, nor make many important broadcast programming decisions. In educational institutions, the number of women head coaches and sports administrators has stagnated. In the past decade, we have seen two women’s sports magazines fold, two professional leagues go out of business, and numerous established women’s sports leaders leave the sporting profession. Softball has been taken off the Olympic program. In the broadcast profession, two well-known sports personalities—Robyn Roberts and Hanna Storm—have moved over to news departments. On the collegiate level, many female sports administrators have been let go with no future hope of employment in a sporting world too often controlled by a huge boys’ club with sports boosters pulling the strings. For example, take a look at the story of 1972 Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Karen Moe. Karen has spent more than twenty years at the University of California. A winning and honored athlete and coach, she mentored 49 All-Americans and 9 Olympians. Fourteen years ago she was promoted to the athletics department and has consistently been given high performance ratings as an administrator. This year she was let go from her job with no explanation. Her departure is a loss to the University, to the students, and to those women who have lost a role model and are now wondering about pursuing a profession as sports administrator.
Yet with the stunning success of events like the 1999 Women’s World Cup, when America’s largest and most prestigious stadiums were packed with young vibrant fans to watch women compete, one might get the impression that all is healthy in women’s sports. After all, since the passage of Title IX, we have witnessed an unprecedented increase in participation. Before Title IX was enacted, fewer than 32,000 took part in collegiate sports. Now more than 150,000 take part. In high school, the number has gone from 300,000 to over 2.8 million. With this increased participation has come the ability to research the true benefits of sport for women, and the results show huge benefits such as the promotion of responsible social behavior, greater academic success, and increased personal skills. According to published research such as the Carnegie Corporation’s “The Role of Sports in Youth Development,” compared to their non-athletic peers, athletes are less likely to smoke or use drugs; have lower rates of sexual activity and teen pregnancy; have higher grades; and learn how to work with a team, perform under pressure, set goals, and take criticism. Since health costs are soaring in this country and the nation faces a serious problem with morbid obesity and diabetes, I would be remiss if I did not mention the health benefits to those who are fit and much more able lead by example and teach the values of a healthy lifestyle to their peers and someday their children.
However, it is dangerous to assume that just because some exceptional efforts attract a nationwide spotlight all is healthy in women’s sports. In fact, despite the fact that sports for girls and women have proven to be so beneficial, there is still an unfortunate debate going on as to the merits of the law that created those opportunities. In June 2002, a 15 member commission was appointed by Secretary of Education Roderick Paige to review opportunities in athletics. I was a member and I am disappointed to say that most of our time was spent on longstanding Title IX policies governing athletics and whether they should be revised. To this day, I feel that we all missed an important opportunity to address the larger issue of how to provide more sports and fitness opportunities to all students in all our schools. As you have heard from others today, Title IX has been the engine that has created an explosion of sports opportunities for women over the last three decades. But Title IX has also been under constant attack and scrutiny since it was enacted, and today is unfortunately no different. The impetus for the Commission centered on claims by some that the way in which Title IX has always been enforced by the Department “needlessly results in the elimination of some men’s teams.” The Department spent a year and about $700,000 of taxpayers’ money and heard from thousands of experts and citizens nationwide through public meetings, emails, reports, and letters, ultimately adopting 23 recommendations. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted during the Commission’s tenure indicated that seven of 10 adults who are familiar with Title IX think the federal law should be strengthened or left alone. Yet many of the Commission’s ultimate recommendations would have seriously weakened Title IX’s protections and substantially reduced the opportunities to which women and girls are entitled under current law.
For this reason, and because the Commission’s report failed to address key issues regarding the discrimination women and girls still face in obtaining equal opportunities in athletics, Co-Commissioner Julie Foudy and I released a Minority Report setting forth our views. We felt an obligation to all those who testified to produce a Minority Report because, contrary to what we were promised at the beginning of our deliberations, we were not permitted to include within the Commission’s report a full discussion of the issues and our position on the recommendations that were adopted.
In our Minority Report, we pointed out that the Title IX athletics policies have been critical to the effort to expand opportunities for women and girls, have been in place through Republican and Democratic Administrations, and have been upheld unanimously by the federal appellate courts. We also noted that advances for women and girls have not resulted in an overall decrease in opportunities for men, and that in the cases where men’s teams have been cut, budgetary decisions and the athletics arms race are the true culprits. Even the Division I athletic directors who served on the Commission testified that revenue producing sports in big-time colleges are “headed for a train wreck.” Based on these findings, we recommended that the current Title IX athletics policies not be changed but enforced to eliminate the continuing discrimination against women and girls in athletics. We also recommended that schools and the public be educated about the flexible nature of the law, reminded that cutting men’s teams to achieve compliance is not necessary or favored, and encouraged to rein in escalating athletics costs to give more female and male athletes chances to play. The outcome of this lengthy and costly Opportunity in Athletics debate was that the Department of Education rejected the Commission’s proposals and strongly reaffirmed the longstanding Title IX athletics policies. In its July 11, 2003 “Further Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance Regarding Title IX Compliance,” the Department of Education stated: “After eight months of discussion and an extensive and inclusive fact-finding process, the Commission found very broad support throughout the country for the goals and spirit of Title IX. With that in mind, OCR today issues this Further Clarification in order to strengthen Title IX's promise of non-discrimination in the athletic programs of our nation’s schools.” The document goes on to say that Title IX’s three-part participation test provides schools with three separate ways to comply and that nothing in that test requires or encourages schools to cut men’s teams; it also promised that OCR would aggressively enforce the longstanding Title IX standards, including implementing sanctions for institutions that do not comply.
However, less than two years after strongly reaffirming the longstanding Title IX athletics policies, and without any notice or public input, the Department of Education did an about-face and posted on its website, late in the afternoon of Friday, March 17, 2005, a new Title IX policy that threatens to reverse the enormous progress women and girls have made in sports since the enactment of Title IX. This new policy, called an “Additional Clarification,” creates a major loophole through which schools can evade their obligation to provide equal sports opportunities to women and girls. The bottom line is that the policy allows schools to gauge female students’ interest in athletics by doing nothing more than conducting an e-mail survey and to claim—in these days of excessive e-mail spam—that a failure to respond to the survey shows a lack of interest in playing sports. It eliminates schools’ obligation to look broadly and proactively at whether they are satisfying women’s interests in sports, and will thereby perpetuate the cycle of discrimination to which women have been subjected. The new Clarification violates basic principles of equality, as I explain further below.
As a member of the Commission that spent a year carefully analyzing these issues, I am deeply troubled that the Department would change its 2003 stated position, in which it reaffirmed the longstanding Title IX policies and pledged to enforce them. Instead, the Administration has unilaterally adopted this dangerous new policy without public announcement or opportunity for public comment. Five of my fellow Commissioners and I are so concerned about this new Clarification that we recently sent a letter to athletic administrators around the country warning them about the flaws of the survey procedure endorsed in it, and urging them to decline to use such procedures and instead to join us in asking for it to be withdrawn. To fully understand why this new Clarification is so dangerous, it is important to review the relevant longstanding Title IX athletics policies. Title IX requires schools to provide males and females with equal sports participation opportunities. A 1979 Policy Interpretation elaborates on this requirement by providing three independent ways that schools can meet it – by showing that:
The percentages of male and female athletes are about the same as the percentages of male and female students enrolled in the school (the “proportionality” prong); or
The school has a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex—usually women; or
The school is fully and effectively meeting the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. The Department’s new Clarification allows schools not meeting the first or second prongs --that is, schools that are not providing equal opportunities to their female students and that have not consistently improved opportunities for them--to show that they are nonetheless in compliance with Title IX by doing nothing more than sending a “model” e-mail survey to their female students asking about their interest in additional sports opportunities. According to the Clarification, the Department will presume that schools comply with Title IX if they use this survey and find insufficient interest to support additional opportunities for women, unless female students can provide “direct and very persuasive evidence” to the contrary.
This new policy dramatically weakens existing law. First, it allows schools to use surveys alone to demonstrate compliance with the law. Under prior Department policies, schools must consider many other factors besides surveys to show compliance with prong three, including: requests by students to add a particular sport; participation rates in club or intramural sports; participation rates in sports in high schools, amateur athletic associations, and community sports leagues in areas from which the school draws its students; and interviews with students, coaches, and administrators. The new Clarification eliminates the obligation to consider these important criteria. Second, surveys are problematic because they are likely only to measure the discrimination that has limited, and continues to limit, sports opportunities for women and girls. Courts have recognized that interest cannot be measured apart from opportunity. In other words, to quote the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Basing women’s opportunities on their responses to surveys that measure their prior lack of exposure will only perpetuate the cycle of discrimination. The new Clarification is particularly damaging for students in high school, where female students are likely to have had even fewer sports opportunities that would inform their responses to a survey, and where students should be encouraged to try many different sports, not have their opportunities limited by what they might have experienced or be interested in at that time.
Third, by allowing schools to restrict surveys to enrolled and admitted students, the Clarification lets schools off the hook from having to measure interest broadly. The Clarification ignores the reality that students interested in a sport not offered by a school are unlikely to attend that school. By not requiring schools to evaluate interest that exists beyond their own campuses—such as in high school, community, and recreational programs in the areas from which a school typically draws its students—the new policy allows schools to select the universe of people who will be able to respond from those who have already signaled their willingness to accept limited opportunities.
Fourth, the Clarification authorizes flawed survey methodology. For example, schools may e-mail the survey to all female students and interpret a lack of response as evidence of lack of interest. Given the notoriously low response rates to surveys in general, let alone to anything sent via email, this authorization will allow schools to avoid adding new opportunities for women even where interest does in fact exist on campus. In addition, schools may presume that young women’s self-assessment of lack of ability to compete at the varsity level reflects an actual lack of ability. Young women who have played sports at the club level or sports other than the ones being considered for varsity status may well have the ability to compete at a varsity level in the sport at issue. Tennis players, for example, may also be able to play squash, and many female athletes can become expert rowers. But under the new Clarification, schools are relieved of any obligation to seek the opinions of coaches or other experts on this issue.
Fifth, the new Clarification shifts the burden to female students to show that they are entitled to equal opportunity. Longstanding Title IX policies put the burden on schools to show that they are fully meeting the interests and abilities of their female students. The new Clarification forces women to prove that their schools are not satisfying their interests and that they are entitled to additional opportunities.
Finally, the Department’s new policy does not even require that the Office for Civil Rights monitor schools’ use of the survey to ensure that they meet minimal requirements for survey use or interpret the results accurately. For all these reasons, the Department’s new Clarification represents a giant step backwards in the progress that women and girls have made in the past three decades. If left in place and used by schools, the new Clarification will lead to a reduction in opportunities for our nation’s daughters. We call on Congress to do everything within its power ensure that this does not happen.
Title IX has opened the door for millions of women and girls to participate in sports, but much work remains to be done to fulfill its promise and vision. We welcome Congress’ focus on the promotion and advancement of women in sports and look forward to working together to expand athletic opportunities for women and girls.
1. NCAA, 2002-03 Gender Equity Report (2004).
2. NFHS, 2002 High School Athletics Participation Survey.
3. See, e.g., Priest, Laurie and Liane M. Summerfield, “Promoting Gender Equity in Middle and Secondary School Sports Programs,” ERIC Digest, 1994; Rebecca Vesely, “California Takes Lead in Sports Equity,” Women’s eNews, Sept. 13, 2004 (regarding bill banning gender bias in youth athletics programs run by cities and counties), available at http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1988/context/archive; Sarah J. Murray, “Posting Up in the Pink Ghetto,” Women’s Sports Foundation, available at http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/cgi-bin/iowa/issues/body/article.html?record=884.
4. Judith Jenkins George, “Lack of News Coverage for Women’s Athletics: A Questionable Practice of Newspaper Priorities,” Aug. 20, 2001, available at http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/cgi-bin/iowa/issues/media/article.html?record=807.
5. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), 1982-2002 Sponsorship and Participation Report 65, available at http://ncaa.org/library/research/participation_rates/1982-2002/participation.pdf; National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), 2002 High School Athletics Participation Survey, available at http://www.nfhs.org/nf_survey_resources.asp.
6. See, e.g., Carnegie Corporation, The Role of Sports in Youth Development 9 (March 1996); NFHS, The Case for High School Activities (2002) at 3, 9; The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Fact Sheet: Not Just Another Single Issue: Teen Pregnancy and Athletic Involvement (July 2003); The Women’s Sports Foundation Report: Sport and Teen Pregnancy (1998) at 5-7; The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Physical Activity & Sports in the Lives of Girls (Spring 1997); and Black Female Athletes Show Grad-Rate Gains, The NCAA News (June 28, 1995).
7. See “Open to All”: Title IX at Thirty, The Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, Feb. 28, 2003, available at http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/athletics/report.html.
8. Erik Brady, “Poll: Most adults want Title IX law left alone,” USA TODAY, Jan. 7, 2003.
9. See Minority Views on the Report of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, Report Submitted by Donna de Varona and Julie Foudy, Feb. 2003 (attached).
10. Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education, “Further Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance Regarding Title IX Compliance,” July 11, 2003 (attached).
11. Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education, “Additional Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy: Three-Part Test ? Part Three,” Mar. 17, 2005 (attached).
12. “Dear Colleague” Letter from Ted Leland et al., Oct. 11, 2005 (attached).
13. United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office for Civil Rights, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; a Policy Interpretation; Title IX and Intercollegiate Athletics, 44 Fed. Reg. 71,413 (December 11, 1979).
14. United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance: The Three-Part Test (Jan. 16, 1996).
15. Cohen v. Brown University, 101 F.3d 155, 179-80 (1st Cir. 1996).
Ms. Dominique DawesU.S. Olympian and PresidentWomen's Sports Foundation
Ms. Jennie FinchU.S. Olympian
Ms. Catherine ReddickU.S. Olympian
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Christine H.B. GrantAssociate ProfessorUniversity of Iowa Department of Health and Sports Studies
Ms. Judith SweetPresident for Championships and Education ServicesNational Collegiate Athletic Association
Ms. Tara EricksonHead Women's Soccer CoachUniversity of Oregon Department of Athletics
Ms. Lynette MundGirl's Varsity Basketball CoachWest Fargo High School