Title IX at XXXV

Thirty-five years after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was made law, its remarkable legacy is manifest in the achievements of Duke alumnae and current female athletes. Even so, it remains a target of criticism, and equity is elusive.
April 1, 2007

The year is 1974. In the predawn darkness of her bedroom, Nancy Hogshead’s alarm insistently beeps her awake. Half-asleep, the twelve-year-old rolls out of bed already wearing her Speedo swimsuit and warm-up clothes. With the rest of the household still fast asleep, she eats breakfast (six eggs, a half-pound of bacon, two English muffins, and a large glass of milk) before heading out the door. Outside, in the already humid Florida morning, she waits to catch a ride to swim practice with a few of her older teammates. After two intense workouts that bracket her school day, she heads home to eat dinner and tackle her homework, turning in at 8:30. At 4:45 a.m., she wakes up and does it all over again, six days a week.

On a warm July afternoon that same year, more than a thousand miles northeast of Hogshead’s Jacksonville home, Barbara Krause spends the waning weeks of her summer break at basketball camp. Encouraged by her high-school English teacher to develop and hone her athletic skills, Krause has a natural competitive streak. In grade school, she would use the heel of her tennis shoe to draw two lines several dozen yards apart in the dirt driveway of her family’s Freeport, Maine, house. “Time me, time me!” she would beg her mother, who glanced between the second hand of her watch and her spunky daughter’s endless attempts to break her own sprinting record. “You’re so fast!” her mother would exclaim. I must be one of the fastest kids ever! Krause would tell herself, smiling between gulps of air.

Access advocate: Hogshead’s legal scholarship focuses on gender- equity issues

Access advocate: Hogshead’s legal scholarship focuses on gender-equity issues. Curtis Loftiss

In Welcome, North Carolina, Debbie Leonard, a dairy farmer’s daughter, has just earned her bachelor’s degree from High Point College, where she played point guard for the women’s basketball team. Realizing a dream she’s had since elementary school, Leonard lands a coaching job, teaching seventh-graders the basics of playing competitive basketball at North Davidson Junior High, just up the road from Charlotte.

Today, thirty-five years after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was made law, its remarkable legacy is manifest in the Olympic achievements and respected legal scholarship of Hogshead ’86 (now Hogshead-Makar); in the influence that Krause ’81 has brought to bear as a senior administrator to two college presidents; and in the wistful pride that runs deep in Leonard’s soul when she remembers the fifteen years she spent building a fledgling Duke women’s basketball team into a respectable program, despite broken promises and meager resources.Flush with the adrenaline thrill of physical exertion and the sheer joy of play, these three young athletes have no way of knowing that a piece of legislation passed two years earlier will have a profound impact on their lives.

An outgrowth of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon LL.B. ’37. It states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” While the law applies to ten broad categories—including access to health care and housing, and equitable recruitment and admissions standards—equity issues in athletics have garnered the highest visibility, the greatest numbers of lawsuits, and the most rancorous debate.

From the start, Title IX was challenged by opponents and skeptics whose arguments ranged from practical—the logistics and costs of implementation, for example—to misguided—that women weren’t as interested in sports as men, or that the law would force schools to cut men’s sports. Yet the backlash against Title IX has not abated, despite the fact that female students outnumber male students in higher education overall; that female participation rates in intercollegiate sports have exploded; that women now have access to locker rooms and paid coaches and other amenities that were budgeted only for male athletes for decades; and that the value-added benefit of leadership, ambition, and teamwork learned through sports has translated into success and confidence for women in their professional pursuits. If anything, the drumbeat of criticism against the law has steadily increased.

Olympic moment: Hogshead finishing first in the qualifying heat of the 100-meter freestyle at the 1984 games

Olympic moment: Hogshead finishing first in the qualifying heat of the 100-meter freestyle at the 1984 games. ©Bettman/CORBIS/Jerry Londriguss

For example, in late September last year, James Madison University announced it would cut ten athletic teams, blaming Title IX compliance as the culprit. About 100 student-athletes and supporters of the teams that had been cut gathered in front of the Department of Education to cheer on speakers who called Title IX out of date. (Title IX advocates, noting that JMU’s development arm had been able to raise $10 million for a new athletics center, countered by saying that, had JMU been working toward compliance all along, such cuts would not have been necessary.) In January, Ohio University eliminated four varsity sports, blaming lack of Title IX compliance. (To cover a projected shortfall in the athletics budget of $10 million by 2010, cuts were made in men’s indoor and outdoor track, men’s diving and swimming, and women’s lacrosse.)

Title IX and gender equity, along with recruiting, was the focus of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting in January. Created in 1989, the commission monitors and reports on maintaining academic and financial integrity in college sports. Although it is an independent organization with no regulatory authority, the commission’s high-profile membership—including current and past university presidents and senior faculty members, sports industry analysts, and journalists such as Judy Woodruff ’68—ensures that its work carries weight in sports, academe, politics, and the media.

At the commission’s January meeting, Christine Grant, former president of both the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators, spoke about trends in college athletics that bode ill for men and women alike. Between 1985 and 2005 (the most recent years for which data are available), the average budget for NCAA Division I-A football teams more than tripled, she said, and for men’s basketball, more than quadrupled. Because those two sports constitute three-quarters of institutional budgets for men’s sports (up from one-half in 1985), cutting other programs has become a way to “save” money.

“It’s not Title IX that’s causing this problem,” Grant said. “It’s the insatiable appetites of football and basketball.”

For advocates and beneficiaries of Title IX like Hogshead-Makar, blaming the law—rather than budgetary mismanagement or refusing to rein in the escalating costs of running million-dollar football and basketball programs—is beyond the pale.

“If you had told me ten years ago, when I graduated from law school, that the majority of my advocacy and pro bono work would focus on making sure girls had the same opportunity as boys to play sports, I would have thought you were nuts,” she says. “At the time, I really thought the battle for gender equity in sports would be over.”

Now an associate professor at Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL) in her hometown of Jacksonville, Hogshead-Makar acknowledges that she was oblivious to Title IX when she arrived at Duke. She figured that, given her credentials, she was entitled to whatever Duke could offer. After all, by the time she was fourteen years old, she was ranked number one in the world in the 200-meter butterfly. She had broken numerous records, garnered international acclaim, and grown accustomed to the robust patronage she’d received through an intense training program and a full-time coach dedicated to developing her athletic talents.

“When I was in junior high school, I thought women’s bodies peaked around the age of eighteen, but that men continued to get better athletically,” she says. “What I didn’t realize was that the reason I didn’t know of any women who competed at the college level wasn’t because of physical ability. It was due to lack of opportunity. I didn’t know a single woman who had a scholarship to swim in college.”

Hogshead-Makar was the exception at Duke, which did not offer men or women swimmers athletic scholarships at the time (and still doesn’t). Recruiting, such as it was, was piecemeal. Urged by a high-school swimming buddy, Greg Anderson ’81, to come for a campus visit, Hogshead-Makar paid her own way to Durham. Anderson introduced her to swim coach Bob Thompson, who was so impressed by her that he offered her a scholarship before he’d gained clearance from the athletics department to do so. Noting the exception made for Hogshead-Makar, former athletics director Tom Butters says, “I would have offered a scholarship to Mozart, too, if I thought he could write a little music for me.”

High achiever: Krause taking a shot during 1980 match against Maryland, above, and on the Skidmore campus today

High achiever: Krause on the Skidmore campus today. Emma Dodge Hanson

In the summer before her freshman year at Duke, Hogshead-Makar qualified for the 1980 Olympics, but did not get to compete because of the U.S. boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The delay didn’t prove detrimental. When she graduated at the ripe old age of twenty-four, with a degree in political science and a certificate in women’s studies, Hogshead-Makar had shattered nearly every university record for women’s swimming and hadn’t lost a single race in a dual meet. In the process, her Olympic dreams were realized—the summer between her sophomore and junior years, she blazed ahead of her fellow competitors to win three gold medals and one silver at the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

It was in Los Angeles that Hogshead-Makar learned about a legislative force that had helped pave the way for her success. Things had gone so smoothly for her from an early age that she wasn’t attuned to the struggles of other female athletes; then Donna DeVerona, a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic swim team, spoke to Hogshead-Makar and her U.S. teammates, both male and female, about the evolution and timeline of Title IX. DeVerona, co-founder in 1972 of the Women’s Sports Foundation advocacy group, shared details about the repeated—and repeatedly rejected—challenges from politicians such as U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, who proposed that Title IX be struck down altogether. But DeVerona also sounded a cautionary alarm. Only months before, a landmark Supreme Court decision, Grove City v. Bell, effectively ended Title IX’s applicability to athletics.

Title IX is in jeopardy, DeVerona told the swimmers. As athletes, you have an obligation to speak up about this. “That was my light-bulb moment about Title IX,” recalls Hogshead-Makar. “I used my access to the media as a new Olympic champion to talk about the importance of the law, and its impact on my life and athletic career.” The following summer, between her junior and senior year at Duke, she interned with the Women’s Sports Foundation, and ultimately served as its president and on its board of trustees. (The Grove City v. Bell decision would be overturned, in 1988, when Congress overrode a veto by President Ronald Reagan to pass the Civil Rights Restoration Act. Educational institutions receiving any type of federal financial assistance, whether direct or indirect, were once again bound by Title IX legislation.)

Hogshead-Makar went on to earn her law degree from Georgetown University in 1997. She has focused on gender-equity issues, particularly as they apply to sports and Title IX, and has testified before Congress on related issues. She teaches courses at FCSL on torts and sports law and provides detailed rebuttals to Title IX critics who misinterpret the legal complexities of the law. She’s taken on 60 Minutes and columnist George Will, among others.

 Krause taking a shot during 1980 match against Maryland

Krause taking a shot during 1980 match against Maryland. Photo courtesy Barbara Krause

“Women still lag behind men,” she says. “In Division I colleges, women represent 53 percent of the student body, receive only 41 percent of the participation opportunities, 43 percent of the total athletic scholarship dollars, 32 percent of the recruiting dollars, and 36 percent of operating budgets.”

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, with the steady legal wrangling over Title IX as backdrop, Debbie Leonard was struggling to put together a Duke women’s basketball team that could compete with neighboring public institutions such as North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When she was approached in 1977 by athletics director Carl James ’52 to become Duke’s first full-time women’s basketball coach, Leonard was entertaining another job offer to coach at Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina. Even though the high-school post offered a higher annual salary—$9,000 compared with Duke’s $8,100—Leonard says she didn’t think twice about taking the Duke offer. “Carl promised me the best-dressed, best-fed, best-equipped team in the Atlantic Coast Conference,” she says. James explained to her that he wanted to bring the women’s team up from Division II to play in the more competitive Division I and was committed to making sure that the program received the resources and institutional support it needed to do so.

Within weeks of accepting the post, Leonard read in the newspaper that James had resigned. Tom Butters, who had come to Duke in 1967 to coach baseball and oversee special events, was promoted to athletics director. The scholarships and facilities and assistance that Leonard had been promised were put on indefinite hold.

Told that her office would be on East Campus, but determined to be in Cameron, Leonard befriended the housekeeping staff there, who told her about a cramped, unused closet. The space became her office. She, her players, and volunteer assistants were responsible for sweeping up Cameron after practice, hauling bleachers out and back for games, and changing tires on the team vans that they drove themselves to away games. In her first season, the Lady Devils were 1-19, including a devastating 117-47 loss at home to Maryland, which concluded with the Terrapin players running sprints because they didn’t get enough of a workout during the game.

By the time Leonard resigned fifteen years later, she had compiled an overall record of 213-189, with an ACC record of 69-119. As former Duke sports information director John Roth ’80 notes in The Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball, Leonard “led the program to many noteworthy achievements, including its first national ranking, its first 20-win season, its first invitation to the NCAA tournament, and a 100 percent graduation rate.... Nine of her teams were .500 or better, and all but three had winning records at home. In short, Leonard did about as much as she could, given the level of support that existed for her sport at the time.”

Sports writer Barry Jacobs ’72 is more blunt. “Duke was late to the table,” he wrote in a newspaper column last year. “State schools such as Maryland, North Carolina, and N.C. State quickly embraced women’s basketball, while the private university for years treated women’s sports more as a burden imposed by Title IX … than as an integral part of a balanced athletic program.” When Leonard left Duke in 1992, the year the men’s varsity team won its second NCAA national championship, her salary was $41,000.

Butters, who retired in 1998, says that his decisions to fund this or that athletic team were never guided by outside forces or pressures. “I did what I thought was right for the university,” he says. “It was either a case of spending all our resources on what the ‘public’ wanted or trying to provide programming excellence by focusing on opportunities where we had a chance to be excellent. Some people wanted me to put all our money in football, for example, and I disagreed.”

Duke was not alone in dragging its feet on Title IX compliance, nor did it intend to do so, according to Chris Kennedy Ph.D. ’79, senior associate director of athletics and an adjunct assistant professor of English, whose career at Duke and in collegiate athletics roughly coincides with the evolution of the law. Kennedy notes that in the early years following the law’s passage, there was confusion and uncertainty about how to measure compliance.

Then and now: Leonard on the court today

Then and now: Leonard on the court today. Jon Gardiner

Title IX “languished” during the Reagan administration, he says; the Civil Rights Restoration Act forced colleges and universities to start paying attention. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were a series of lawsuits that had Tom Butters thinking about the need to address Title IX compliance at Duke,” says Kennedy, who is responsible for, among other duties, generating institutional reports on Duke’s progress toward achieving and maintaining gender equity.

Although the legal consequences of failing to comply with Title IX range from slap-on-the-wrist fines to the loss of federal funding, pressures from external and internal constituents also play a role in how quickly colleges and universities have addressed gender equity. In 1980, members of the university’s student-run Association for Duke Women (ADW) filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education. The complaint alleged that Duke discriminated against women in housing, faculty recruitment, and athletics. Mary Brew ’81 says that she and her ADW peers were more concerned about the disproportionate number of men granted dormitory space on West Campus than a dearth of sports opportunities for women.

“People had been complaining about it for years, and it was so obvious that there was a disparity,” says Brew. “University administration said yes, we know it’s a problem, but then they never did anything about it.” Weary at the lack of progress, Brew and her fellow ADW students saw the complaint as a way to force the university’s hand. “Once the suit was brought, the federal government dragged its heels, but the university did pick up the PR ball,” Brew says. “After I graduated, I heard that the university formed a committee to examine reallocating housing, and eventually did, so I felt as though we accomplished what we set out to do.”

Then in 1997, the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington-based legal-advocacy organization, filed a Title IX complaint that accused Duke and twenty-four other schools of failing to provide adequate numbers of athletic scholarships for women. Within two years, Duke had put together a plan to add additional scholarships for female student-athletes, including those participating in crew, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, and tennis. Kennedy told the Durham Herald-Sun that “The process of getting us where we need to be started before this complaint was filed. And it’s going to go on.”

Today’s athletics departments, says Kennedy, are guided by a series of often competing priorities. At Duke, that includes alumni expectations and the strong history of sports; the escalating costs of attracting and retaining student-athletes and coaches; working closely with the admissions office to ensure that recruited student-athletes can and do succeed academically; and complying with NCAA, ACC, and Title IX requirements.

Currently, Duke offers twelve varsity sports for men and twelve for women. The Atlantic Coast Conference requires all member institutions to sponsor football, men’s and women’s basketball, and either women’s volleyball or women’s soccer. The NCAA requires Division I institutions to sponsor a minimum of fourteen sports—seven for each gender.

Then and now: Leonard huddles with her team during a 1980 win over Virginia

Then and now: Leonard huddles with her team during a 1980 win over Virginia. Francis Leonard

Duke, like all postsecondary institutions required to comply with Title IX, must file an Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act annual report with the Department of Education (DOE) on its athletic participation rates, staffing figures, and revenues and expenses, broken down by men’s and women’s teams. These reports are public information, accessible through the DOE’s website.

Still, it can be tricky to tease out information such as coaches’ salaries, which are reported as an average. (Men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s $1 million-plus salary, for example, raises considerably the averages on the men’s side of the equation.) Athletics-department representatives declined to provide a salary breakdown for men’s and women’s basketball head and assistant coaches or for the head and assistant football coaches.

According to the latest DOE report (2005-2006), men’s and women’s basketball brought in revenues of $12,199,195 and $646,937, respectively; expenses were $8,133,188 and $2,817,662. Football revenues were $8,381,452; expenses were $10,052,697. Not surprisingly, football has long been a flash point in the Title IX debate, given the number of scholarships offered and the attendant cost per participant. During his Duke presidency, Terry Sanford led an unsuccessful national lobbying campaign that proposed taking football off the table when considering Title IX compliance.

Saturday afternoon, January 13, 2007. A sold-out Cameron Indoor Stadium is packed with Blue Devil fans eager to see Duke avenge its 78-75 overtime loss to Maryland in the finals of the 2006 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. While television, print, and radio reporters jostle for the best vantage point, season ticket holders wave blue-and-white pompons, and the Cameron Crazies, out in full force, are packed in tight on the bleachers. Clusters of young girls hold autograph books and talk to one another about their favorite players.

Of all the women’s teams at Duke, basketball shows just how far women can go when given the right resources and support. Coach Gail Goestenkors, only twenty-nine when she came to Duke in 1992, has built the Lady Devils into a consistently top-ranked, highly respected program. She’s also earned recognition internationally, as assistant coach for the USA Basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, and as USA Basketball Coach of the Year the following year. Goestenkors credits the national exposure and luster of the men’s team with helping her own program, and others at Duke, to flourish.

Barb Krause, who still holds the Duke women’s basketball record for number of rebounds in a single game, follows the Goestenkors squad religiously, often talking via cell phone to friends who are watching the game live in Cameron or on television at home. Now the executive director of the president’s office at Skidmore College—she held a similar position at Cornell University—Krause cites her participation in team sports as a key ingredient in her professional achievements. “It’s a cliché, but true, that playing sports taught me valuable lessons about leadership and teamwork—what kind of leader I am, how groups need different kinds of leaders depending on the situation, and how these things apply in our personal and professional lives,” she says.

For Krause and others like her, comparing the current climate for women athletes with that of an earlier generation can be bittersweet. “Every year, we knew we were going to take pretty serious losses and be reminded once again that other schools were putting money into athletic scholarships and team support that Duke wasn’t,” she recalls. “But I also had, and still have, tremendous respect for my coaches. They were devoted to us as individuals, to our team, and to Duke.”

Krause says she is disinclined to consider the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens had Title IX compliance afforded her and her teammates the opportunities enjoyed by today’s players. “I’m thrilled to see these players have crowds turn out to watch them, and the full support of the institution. It would have been nice to have had that. But there’s a real sense of pride and satisfaction in what we did accomplish. We helped Duke turn the corner.”