Some Men's Sports Hurt By O.C.R. InterpretationOf Title IX, Critics Say
Representatives and supporters of men's intercollegiate athletics told a Congressional panel last week that the Education Department's enforcement and inter~pretation of a landmark anti-dis~crimination law is endangering lower-profile men's sports.
Some men's coaches have been angling for months to get Congress to hold hearings on Title IX, the 1972 law that requires educational institutions receiving federal funds to offer equal opportunities to men and women.
They maintain that colleges are cutting men's teams in sports such as wrestling and swimming to free up money for women's sports--some of which hold little interest for women.
Advocates of women's athletics, however, maintain that the real culprit is football. They say it siphons off disproportionate chunks of colleges' athletic budgets and that large football squads contribute heavily to imbalances in the number of male and female athletes.
Although the testimony was directed at higher education, any changes made to the law or enforcement policies would probably affect secondary schools, which also must comply with Title IX.
Questioning the Test
But most members of the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, Training, and Life-Long Learning showed little enthusiasm for tinkering with the law.
Instead, they encouraged colleges and the Education Department's office for civil rights to try to resolve their differences over its interpretation through improved communication.
The core issue is the three-pronged test that the O.C.R. uses to gauge whether a college's athletic program is in compliance with Title IX. An institution can choose to meet one of three standards: that it offers athletic opportunities to male and female students that are substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments; that it shows a continuous history of expanding athletic opportunities for women; or that it has met the interests of its female athletes.
Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.--a former high school wrestling coach who requested the hearing--and other witnesses contended that the O.C.R. virtually ignores the other two standards in favor of the proportionality test.
Vartan Gregorian, the president of Brown University, asked that the agency clarify its regulations, and particularly that it specify what measures of female sports interest would be acceptable.
Mr. Gregorian said the federal judge who ruled against Brown in a recent case rejected every instrument the university submitted to document student interest.
Norma Cantu, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights, noted that institutions can choose any of the three tests. She also said that she fears the law may become prescriptive and inflexible if the O.C.R.'s regulations are too definitive.
Other witnesses, meanwhile, questioned why Congress was looking at Title IX from this perspective when men still receive the lion's share of athletic opportunities more than two decades after the law was passed.