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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Changes advised in women's athletics

 •  UH lauds Title IX panel
 •  Ferd Lewis: Landmark legislation survives rough test

By Erik Brady
USA Today

WASHINGTON — A federal commission looking into Title IX passed a series of recommendations yesterday that could lead to fundamental changes in the law's underlying regulations.

The next move is up to the Bush administration, which named the commission. A final report goes to Secretary of Education Rod Paige Feb. 28. It will contain an array of recommendations, several of which could lead to changes in proportionality, the most controversial regulation of the law that forbids sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds.

The commission voted down a proposal to throw out proportionality altogether. But it passed other recommendations that could change the formula if enacted by the Department of Education. Among them:

• Count opportunities made available to each sex, rather than the actual number of participants.

• Allow schools to use interest surveys as a tool to demonstrate compliance with Title IX.

• Allow schools to leave non-recruited walk-ons out of proportionality counts.

"These recommendations give the Bush administration carte blanche to change any policies that it is so inclined to change," said Jocelyn Samuels, a vice president of the National Women's Law Center. "The secretary of education could effectively rescind the three-part test."

Proportionality is the first option of a three-part test of compliance with Title IX's participation requirements. If a school's female enrollment is 56 percent, about 56 percent of its athletes should be women. Opponents such as Mike Moyer of the National Wrestling Coaches Association call that a quota. Proponents of Title IX say it can't be a quota because there are two other ways to pass: by showing a history and continuing practice of adding women's sports and by meeting the athletic interests and abilities of the women on campus.

"We would have preferred that proportionality be taken out entirely," Moyer said. "But we're confident that these changes can make things better for everyone concerned."

Paige, in a statement yesterday, said the commission had reached consensus on suggestions that the department give equal weight to all three parts of its compliance test and encourage schools to avoid eliminating teams.

A plan proposed by Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow gained much notice in the weeks before Wednesday's meeting. It would have allowed schools to split their participation opportunities 50-50 between the sexes and allow "wiggle room" of 5 percent to 7 percent. Yow amended to 2 percent to 3 percent before the vote, which deadlocked at 7-7. (Commissioner Lisa Graham Keegan arrived too late for the vote and left before explaining her absence to reporters.) The plan will be included in the report as having neither passed nor failed.

"I think there are divergent camps on this issue," said co-chair Ted Leland, athletic director at Stanford. "Between those two camps, we came out with a middle ground."

Proponents of Title IX said the recommendations "opened the door to a radical restructuring of a civil rights law."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, and three dozen other lawmakers appealed to the Bush administration yesterday not to undermine Title IX.

Last year, Congress renamed the law after the late Rep. Patsy Mink, a Hawai'i Democrat and national advocate for equality who fought for the law 30 years ago.

Abercrombie called Title IX the "crowning achievement of Patsy's life work."

"She leveled the playing field for millions of girls and young women who enjoy equal opportunity," he said. "Any attempt to weaken Title IX is an attack on Patsy's memory. We owe it to her and every college athlete, male and female, to defend her legacy."

Advertiser Washington Bureau reporter Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.