George Will: Title IX

Soon a commission will recommend changes in enforcement of the law called Title IX.

Passed 30 years ago, the law bans sexual discrimination in education. The problem is how that ban has been construed as applied to athletics.

It is a myth that Title IX produced the dramatic increase in women's participation in athletics. Actually, cultural changes produced most dramatic increases before Title IX was even applied to athletics.

What Title IX has produced is the elimination of more than 400 men's teams because the bureaucrats who wrote the Title IX regulations required a perverse kind of proportionality: The number of roster spots on women's teams must be the same proportion of women's total enrollment in the school as the number of men's roster spots is of men's enrollment.

But more young men than young women care about playing sports. And one men's sport, football, requires a lot of roster spots. So if the school has equal numbers of men and women and has, say, 400 athletic roster spots, then 200 must be for men and 200 for women, even if this means that all women wishing to participate can but half the men wishing to participate can't.

Because Title IX has made a dogma of such proportionality, many schools have had to achieve equality partly by reducing the number of male athletes by killing men's wrestling, swimming, baseball, gymnastics and other teams. In a recent five-year period, more than three men's positions on college teams were eliminated for every woman's position created.

Some feminists for whom Title IX is a fetish oppose revising the enforcement rules. But those rules mistakenly equate equal participation rates with equal opportunity, and have turned Title IX into a triumph of dogmatism over common sense.