restricted access Why Sport? The Development of Sport as a Policy Issue in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
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Why Sport? The Development of Sport as a Policy Issue in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a thirty-year-old policy whose implementation continues to be debated today among all three institutions of government in the United States.1 Although current debates focus on gender equity in athletics, Title IX legislation as originally written did not even mention sport. Title IX states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance" (P.L. 92-318 sec. 901). In fact, Title IX arrived on the agenda specifically to combat sex discrimination in education. In particular, those who fought for its passage focused on issues such as equal pay, tenure track opportunities, and sex bias in school texts.2

So how and when did the focus of Title IX shift from gender equity in education to gender equity in sport? What factors led to this shift? To fully understand the evolution, it is necessary to place Title IX's development in its historical institutional context. Drawing from arguments made by historical institutionalists, this study highlights the importance of analyzing "organizational configurations rather than particular settings in isolation," and it pays particular attention to critical junctures and long-term processes rather than simply "slices of times and short term maneuvers."3 In this case, the shift in Title IX policy that took place in 1973 can be seen as critical within the long-term historical development of this policy. During this period, Title IX's policy community shifted its focus from education to sport, and Congress [End Page 300] reformulated Title IX legislation to include athletics. This is critical because the shift in focus and redefinition to athletics continued to frame the Title IX debate from that point forward.4 Further, this shift occurred within an organizational context involving all three branches of government and reflected an appropriate historical context, all of which created the right timing for policy change. This article examines the institutional structures and processes, as well as the favorable political and social context, that created the proper timing and favorable conditions for Title IX's redefinition to include sport.

The literature on Title IX thus far does not provide a systemic historical institutional evaluation of its policy development. Much of the literature examines Title IX's development from a "bottom-up" approach. The evolution of Title IX from this perspective is explained largely by pressure from outside interest groups and lobbyists.5 The legislation's history supports this approach to a certain extent, for interest groups did focus their arguments on gender inequity in athletics soon after Title IX's passage. The question still remains, however: Why did these groups narrow their focus from larger issues of gender discrimination in education to gender equity in athletics at that particular time? And how did this shift get translated onto the agenda within the institutions of government?

Some literature on Title IX does focus on the policy-making process. Fishel and Pottker, for instance, provide a detailed analysis of how Title IX progressed through Congress and the executive branch from 1972 to 1975.6 Joseph McCarthy's analysis of Title IX extends through 1988, which includes the court's role in Title IX's policy interpretation in the 1980s.7 Other accounts explain its development in relation to women's public policy issues.8 In addition, there are many law review articles that focus on Title IX's judicial history.9

Scholars have also provided guidance on the proper implementation of Title IX.10 For instance, in Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title IX, Jessica Gavora contends that the executive branch has incorrectly interpreted and implemented Title IX legislation in recent years.11 And in Title IX, Linda Jean Carpenter and R. Vivian Acosta analyze how it applies to physical education, recreational activities, and athletics and provide a full congressional, executive, and legal history and evaluation of Title IX's current status.12 None...


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