The fight for Title IX reform must go on

The NWCA lawsuit has taken the Title IX issue to the public

Along with so many others who are involved with the Olympic sports community, I was a bit taken by surprise by the news yesterday that the judge involved with the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) legal challenge to Title IX decided to dismiss the case.
For over a year, the NWCA lawsuit has been a central focus of the efforts to change the interpretation of Title IX and protect men’s Olympic sports from extinction. The filing of this lawsuit brought Title IX to the public forum, and the progress of the case through the system has been a constant reminder that this issue is very important and needs attention.

This judicial announcement, upon a first look, sounds very disappointing. You can add to that the total lack of courage by the Bush Administration to do the right thing and implement the report by the Commission on Opportunities in Athletics. Then there is the constant noise coming from the NCAA, led by President Myles Brand (with top women’s sports executive Judy Sweet dictating the rhetoric) that ignores the legitimate concerns of the Olympic sports community.

Combined, these developments threaten to crush the spirit of those who are seeking Title IX reform.

Don’t go there. Do not abandon ship. Don’t let the wrong side win.

All along, those on the front lines of the war for Title IX reform have said that this will be a long and treacherous journey. The goals that have been set are not easily reached. The effort to fix Title IX by eliminating the proportionality quota is a major challenge. We are attempting to change something that has become ingrained in the feminist cause, and has been institutionalized by the college sports community. The odds are not in our favor, and never were.

If fixing the Title IX mess were easy, it would have already been done. Now is not the time for surrender. Now is the time for a determined effort to fight the next battle, no matter where that may be. And really, who knows exactly where the next front of this war will be?

Lets take a broader view of this whole deal, without letting emotion get in the way. Think about where we were two years ago, and where we are today. In spite of what seems like some setbacks, we have moved the ball down the field considerably in the last two years. Back then, nobody knew much about the unintended consequences of Title IX quotas. Back then, the public ignored the plight of wrestlers, swimmers, gymnasts, track and field athletes, tennis players, golfers and other athletes who were getting axed in the name of gender equity.

The NWCA lawsuit helped bring the Title IX issue to the public. The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics provided an open public forum that allowed those seeking change a real opportunity to make their case. The Commissioners proved to be reasonable people (except for Julie Foudy and Donna De Varona), a group of individuals who seriously assumed their assignment to research the issue and seek creative solutions to problems.

My contention is that Title IX reformers won the Commission hearings. However, once that process had ended, the issue was kicked back to the politicians and the special interest groups. This is an area where those protecting the status quo has an advantage, with considerably more resources at their disposal.

By engaging in this battle, the wrestling community has been strengthened. By standing up in a strong fashion, in such a public way, wrestling has received a new respect within the sports community. We must have some influence. If you read the propaganda that has been generated about those evil and misguided wrestlers, we must be doing something right. A friend recently told me about a major women’s college administrator who noted that colleges dont want to mess around with the wrestling community right now, because we raise such a public stink when we are threatened. The squeaky wheel really does get the grease.

The other thing to remember is that we have truth on our side. Those with a strong moral sense, that are willing to stand up for what is right and fair, can never abandon a cause when they know they are right. On this issue, the battle against unfair gender quotas in sports, we are right. Don’t ever forget that.

A bit about the NWCA lawsuit. The case is not over. The judge did not rule on the merits of the case. The judge threw it out of court because he claimed that the NWCA, the College Sports Council and the others involved did not have the legal standing to make this case. The lawsuit will now move into the appeals process. The lawyers for the NWCA and College Sports Council feel that they could get a better shake at the next level. They are most certainly not letting this ruling stop them from pursuing their quest for change.

So what will be happening next? Where does this battle continue after today?

In the federal government, the issue is still sitting on Secretary Rod Paiges desk at the Department of Education. The work has been done, by the Commission itself and by those who are in government who have the ability to make the changes. Ultimately, the decision is with the White House, which directs all of the major issues for this administration. Time and time again, we have asked people to contact President Bush and Secretary Paige and ask for them to put the Commissions proposals into effect. This must continue to happen, now and always.

In the courts, the NWCA lawsuit will go to appropriate appeals court. Attorney Mark Martel who is involved with the Neal vs. Board of Education case concerning Cal-State Bakersfield has indicated that he is now in the process of taking that legal effort to the Supreme Court for consideration. Indirectly, the big Michigan Law School case that is being heard by the Supreme Court may have some implications that could affect the way Title IX is enforced.

At the NCAA level, there are ongoing efforts to get the NCAA leadership, from the national staff to the college presidents and athletic directors, to take some ownership of the problems with lost Olympic sports programs. One of the current buzzword statements is to Preserve Olympic sports. Although the NCAA has yet to show any signs that they get it and that they care about men’s Olympic sports athletes, that does not mean that it will always be the case. We must keep throwing the truth in their face, and letting them know that we are there.

Ultimately, however, this battle must continue in your heart and in your mind. Each and every person who is committed to reforming Title IX must continue to do what they can to help. This includes donating time and money. This includes writing letters to politicians and newspapers. This includes talking up the issue at the office or in their daily life experiences.

NWCA President Mike Moyer says that we are only in the first period of this match. The scoreboard may not be in our favor right this second, but there is a ton of time to get our offense going and to reclaim the lead. Its not over until its over, and everybody has to understand that THIS match is not over. We have the skill, experience and commitment to win. We just need the courage to compete.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!