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Court affirms gender balance in athletics

April 23, 1997

By Tamara Waite

Lariat Reporter

Colleges and universities must maintain equal numbers of female and male athletes and display 'gender parity between their student bodies and athletic lineups,' according to a milestone ruling the Supreme Court let stand Monday.

The Court refused to review Brown University's appeal to a 1994 ruling that its intercollegiate athletic program discriminated against women and violated Title IX legislation.

In the original case, a group of female athletes from Brown sued the university because it had fewer women than men overall playing sports. Brown had 555 male varsity athletes and 342 female athletes even though 51 percent of the university's students were women, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The Supreme Court's dismissal of the appeal this week reaffirmed the Title IX stipulations for intercollegiate sports and rejected Brown's argument that it could offer women fewer opportunities for athletic participation than men because female students showed less interest in sports than their male counterparts.

'It's the greatest single legal victory in the history of women's sports,' said Donna de Varona, founding member and first president of the Women's Sports Foundation in an article in The Dallas Morning News.

Title IX became federal law in 1972 and has had revolutionary impacts on women's athletic participation in the past 25 years. Nearly 120,000 women play sports at the collegiate level today, according to the same article in the Los Angeles Times. This number is up from about 35,000 in 1972.

'I am excited about the overall direction of our women's sports programs,' Baylor's Athletics Director Tom Stanton said. 'The University is totally committed to being in compliance with Title IX legislation.'

Stanton also said internal analyses as well as detailed information from the National Collegiate Athletic Association will give the athletic department a clear direction for ensuring future compliance.

The transition from club to varsity sports is a practical means of balancing sports teams between the sexes. Until recently the University did not have a varsity women's soccer or softball teams. These teams were incorporated into the University in an attempt to balance the sex ratio in varsity athletics.

University varsity women's soccer coach Randy Waldrum said, 'The legislation has definitely been effective in providing increased opportunities for women to compete.'

'It has been a big plus for the women's soccer program at Baylor and for the growth of women's soccer as a whole.'

According to the Los Angeles Times, critics of Title IX claim Monday's ruling is unfair to men because it limits their chances to play sports at the varsity collegiate level.

Waldrum said that he believes some of the controversy surrounding Title IX concerns its interpretation and the formula used to determine the standards of equality.

Waldrum said that collegiate football programs, for example, often draw more than 100 male athletes, and there are no women's team sports that draw a comparable number of players.

Under the Title IX standards, some of the smaller men's teams may have been hurt because they do not have the player or scholarship resources they had before, Waldrum said.

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