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June 20, 2012

Law banning sex bias struck a national sports nerve

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Bayh thinks those numbers would have pleased Marvella, who died of cancer in 1979. They also make him think of his father, who coached four sports at Indiana State University and told his son, back in the 1930s, that “little girls need strong bodies to carry strong minds around in, just like little boys do.”

'Fairness to our daughters'

Much has been written about the cultural war over Title IX as schools at all levels across the nation wrestled with how to enforce it. It has been embraced and resisted, even litigated and challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. A 1984 decision involving tiny Grove City College, a private Pennsylvania school, and the 1988 Civil Rights Restoration Act extended the law’s reach to indirect federal aid such as student loans and grants.

Thus Title IX remains true today to its original intent, and even those who find fault with how its policy of equality falls short when put into practice still praise it.

"Title IX is about one thing," said Christine Grant, the former athletic director of the Department of Women's Athletics at the University of Iowa. "It's about fairness to our daughters in the same way we have fairness to our sons."

In two generations, it has changed the look of sports. Before Title IX, 1 in 27 high school girls played organized sports. Now it's close to 2 in 5.

The number of women playing intercollegiate sports has risen more than 600 percent since the law's inception, from less than 30,000 to more than 186,000. (That’s still less than the nearly 250,000 NCAA male athletes.)

Title IX's impact on numbers off the field is evident, as well. In 1972, seven percent of the law degrees and nine percent of the medical degrees went to women; now nearly half those degrees are earned by women.

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