Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No more whining about Title IX

     A funny thing about that dreaded "sense of entitlement" deemed so pervasive today: Those who complain the most about it often have the least reason to complain.

    This is true whether the topic is food stamps, affirmative action, or any number of means of helping those on society's margins.

    For every alleged college affirmative action atrocity there is the barely justified "legacy" admission. For every food-stamp horror story there is the inheritor of daddy's money who didn't earn his checkout-line bounty, either.

    Which brings us to that terrible, horrible, no good destroyer of NCAA money machines: Title IX.

     That would be the federal initiative, now 40 years old, that dragged college sports programs kicking and screaming toward what was right — treating men and women equally. The nerve of it all.

      The May 7 Sports Illustrated features it on its cover, and it's interesting that this is one cover that has no faces, no action, just words:

     "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. . . ."

     What's also interesting is that the faces and action inside the magazine are so compelling as to be a cavalcade of magazine covers — women striving in rugged dignity, experiencing the glow of victory, or the reward for having had a shot at it.

    I flash back to my high school in suburban Denver in 1971, and the shame attached to the few girls involved in sports. They were freaks, and they knew it. Our school had a track team of four, a gymnastics team without anything approaching a meet, and that was it. Girls in my home state had no basketball. No volleyball. No softball. No soccer.

     To think that recently I had to sit 10 rows from the rafters of Denver's packed Pepsi Center as Baylor's Lady Bears battled Notre Dame for the NCAA women's basketball championship before an ESPN audience.

    At halftime a procession of trailblazers was introduced in the long battle for equality in women's sports. How lonely they must have felt all those years ago. How under fire, as they encroached on the entitled set that didn't want to share the ball.   

   Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff writes about Ground Zero of the backlash against Title IX: Texas — how Congress beat back legislation sponsored by then Sen. John Tower and backed by University of Texas legend Darrell Royal to spare men's football and basketball from having to give an inch toward equal funding.

    Wolff writes how then-UT women's athletic director Donna Lopiano provided dynamic advocacy for the counter-cause, even advising students to sue the university. (Wolff points out that Royal ultimately became a big women's sports backer.)

    As one who covered sports in the '70s, I saw the same struggle at colleges big and small. One could not begrudge men's programs for protecting their turf. The coaches and athletic directors had the same mandate from their schools and boosters as before: win. And they were to do it sharing budgets with feminine types who weren't going to pay their way with big-big gate receipts?

     Looking back now, the concerns are laughable. College sports is one of those endeavors in which the George Bush-ism, "Grow the pie," certainly fits. The success is stunning and affirming.

     But the same can be said for any number of federal equal opportunity initiatives. Businesses kicked and screamed regarding the Americans With Disabilities Act. The republic endured, and the disabled have greater opportunities. Blowhards like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul cavalierly talk about the ADA's destructiveness. Of course, they don't ride wheelchairs to work.

     Think of the screams of horror emanating from the South's power brokers when Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act — the end of the world as they knew it. The South endured. And, the power brokers found political ways to ply white angst over those changes into more power — denouncing Americans with a "sense of entitlement," of course.

    Well, yes, those once marginalized were and are entitled, as the founders wrote, endowed with certain rights, including equal treatment under the law.

     We hear no whining anymore about Title IX, in part because of its spectacular successes. Of course, social justice has had other successes just as spectacular, just not the stuff of pompons and ESPN.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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