Forty years ago this June (June 23, 1972 to be exact) the historic legislation, Title IX, was passed, putting in motion the ongoing battle to provide equal opportunities for both men and women within college athletics (among many other aspects of the law). Per the United States Department of Labor website:
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...
—Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688
Whether you agree or disagree on its success and the fallout from its implementation, it has unquestionably altered the landscape of collegiate sports.
So why the mention of Title IX? Admittedly the recent exposes in Sports Illustrated and online at ESPN.com put it at the forefront of my mind, but with Lehman’s athletic seasons having wound down, I was also involved in the process of reviewing and recapping the past year for the department’s yearly awards dinner and came to thinking just how commonplace it now is for women to compete and thrive – on a high level, no less – in college athletics.
Here at Lehman some of its most successful sports stories of the year came from its female student-athletes. A strong, powerful track athlete, Tobi Alli, helped her team to the conference title in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, winning the MVP award at both races, and earning places in the NCAA Division III National Championships. Perhaps most impressive to those who think that men and women compete on two totally separate planes: her finishing times were better than many of the male competitors in the same events.
Another student-athlete, Gerri Ann Martin from the women’s volleyball team, completed a four-year career during which she was an All-Star every season and was voted the conference’s top player this past year. Again, her talent level could easily cross over to the men’s side.
And there are countless other examples here at Lehman and throughout collegiate athletics that would show the same thing: that women can compete in sports, they can do it well, and that they deserve the chance to do so with the same luxuries afforded to their male counterparts without having to deal with sideways glances and feelings of inferiority.
In the fall of 2012, Lehman will officially add a women's varsity soccer program, bringing its total sports offered to 18, nine for men and nine for women.
We’ve come a long way in 40 years, and to me, it’s been for the better.