A feature graphic that reads "Clarifying Myths"
Graphic by Mike Swingle

Title IX has been around for almost 50 years yet it still continues to be a highly controversial and misunderstood policy. Although its intention is good, its implementation is questioned. Title IX serves to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex for any activity or educational program receiving Federal financial assistance. Regardless of this clear objective, the motives and implications are widely contested, and the implementation of Title IX and personal biases have created some well-known myths. 

Some of the most regularly circulated myths with respect to Title IX pertain to its effects on men and men’s sports. 

Myth 1: In order to provide equal opportunities for women’s sports, men’s sports must be cut. 

This myth is rooted in the belief that Title IX requires a quota. This, however, is inherently false. Title IX is not a quota system, and instead, it merely requires that schools show they are providing proportionate athletic opportunities to both men and women. 

Title IX makes no mention of cutting men’s sports in support of women’s sports. How universities decide to comply with Title IX is up to them. Critics may claim that the indirect consequence of Title IX forces universities' to cut men’s sports to make room for women’s sports. This is also not true. 

According to data released by the NCAA, female student-athlete participation and male student-athlete participation have both seen an increase from 1983-2019. To say that male-student athlete participation must decrease for female student-athlete participation to increase is flawed. This myth is commonly tied to the cutting of wrestling programs. However, colleges often cut non-revenue sports not to make room for women’s sports, but to make room for larger revenue sports such as football and men’s basketball. 

Graphic by Mike Swingle

Title IX was not in effect for athletic programs during 1984-1988, and over the course of these four years, the NCAA cut 53 wrestling programs. This would average to 13.2 cuts per year. When Title IX was reinstated to athletic programs in 1988, the NCAA cut 56 wrestling programs over a 12-year period. This would average to 4.7 cuts per year. It’s easy for universities to blame their cuts on Title IX, but the truth is that Title IX does not require or directly result in the cutting of men’s programs. 

Myth 2:  Funding for women and men’s sports must be equal. 

ESPN gathered differing opinions and responses to Title IX from various readers, and many of them disapproved of Title IX on the belief that it required equal funding and opportunities for both men and women’s sports. Although Title IX emphasizes the importance of creating equal opportunity for both men and women, it does not dictate spending. The NCAA writes, “The Javits Amendment stated that legitimate and justifiable discrepancies for non-gender related differences in sports could be taken into account.Title IX recognizes a school will spend more money on supplying 100 jerseys to its football team than it will providing 30 swimsuits to its women’s swim team. It makes no mention that the spending between these two sports needs to equalize.

However, if women are receiving substandard equipment compared to their male counterparts, then that would not be okay under the terms of Title IX. The NCAA states, “Title IX does not require that each team receive exactly the same services and supplies...Variations within the men and women's program are allowed, as long as the variations are justified.” It is about equal opportunity, not sameness.

Myth 3: Title IX only impacts women. 

It’s often thought that because Title IX was originally created for women, it only impacts women. This is not true. Title IX requires schools to respond to any sexual harassment or discrimination allegations based on any gender or sex. This has lasting impacts on all people, regardless of gender. 

Although women have higher reported rates of sexual assault, 6.8% of undergraduate males and 2.5% of graduate males report experiencing penetration or sexual touching involving physical force and/or inability to consent since entering college. Title IX plays a role in helping to protect and seek justice for these male victims. 

Graphic by Dariya Zhumashova

Title IX also serves the purpose of protecting against discrimination in more than just athletics. The NCAA clearly states, “Although it is the application of Title IX to athletics that has gained the greatest public visibility, the law applies to every single aspect of education, including course offerings, counseling and counseling materials, financial assistance, student health and insurance benefits and/or other services, housing, the marital and parental status of students, physical education and athletics, education programs and activities, and employment.” These issues can affect people of any gender, and Title IX assumes no gender identity when addressing its purpose. 

By Sarah Tolman