Christine Brennan, sports reporter and columnist for USA Today, was recently interviewed by Real Clear Sports. Brennan’s consistent support and advocacy for Title IX was reflected, in particular, in her explanation for why Title IX is not to blame for cuts to men’s athletics.
RCS: Title IX, for which you’ve among the strongest advocates, remains a controversial topic. Is it unreasonable for critics to believe that Title IX could evolve so that it continues to encourages women to participate in sports, while also recognizing that a higher percentage of men are passionate about sports?
Brennan: I think Title IX has been a very good law. I think you could make a case that it’s the most important law in our country over the last 40 years. A lot of people would argue for Roe v. Wade, which was a Supreme Court decision, not a law per se, but I think the important point is the way women are being empowered through sports, and the major role women are going to play in politics and corporate life and all facets of leadership in our country and the world, due to the lessons they learned on the playing fields due to Title IX. They are learning about winning and losing at a young age, learning about teamwork and sportsmanship. Whatever that girl you see in the kitchen each morning is going to become — a mother, a doctor, a lawyer, etc. — she will be better at it because she played sports. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Title IX. I personally feel it’s been a very good law, but I totally understand those groups that are very concerned about what they would call the “unintended consequences” of Title IX.
I’d rather look at the choices and decisions made by athletic directors. Title IX has been the law of the land for 37 years, and athletic directors have had 37 years to implement it, but for quite a few of those years, some athletic directors must have thought it was a recommendation, not a law. So when women athletes or their parents saw blatant inequality and found nothing being done about it, some went to court. And they won every time. So the ADs then had to slash and burn the so-called men’s minor sports, or men’s Olympic sports, and no one wants that. That is just heart breaking, when the men’s golf team, or the men’s swimming team, or men’s track and field or wrestling is eliminated. But I don’t think we can blame a great law for the poor decision-making of athletic directors who somehow didn’t understand that Title IX meant it was time to get working to create opportunities for women as well as for men.
That said, most schools are not cutting men’s sports and have found a balance and are working towards compliance with a law that is extremely popular with all Americans, not only girls and women, but also especially with the fathers of athletic daughters. One of those fathers happens to be the new President of the United States. President Obama and his administration have made it crystal clear that they’re big fans of Title IX and that they are going to work to strengthen the law, not weaken it. This clearly is a law that’s here to stay.