Feb 15, 2011 10:17 AM by Derek Buerkle (KPAX Sports)
MISSOULA - Robin Selvig first started coaching the Montana Lady Griz in 1978, just six years after Title IX became a federal law. Since that time, his program has won 753 games and it might not have ever happened without the law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs or activities.
Schools still need to follow those guidelines which were set nearly 40 years ago and at the university level, one way to meet compliance standards is to ensure that the same percentage of men and women at a university make up it's athletic programs.
The University of Montana does not come near that goal. The school is 48%, but male athletes make up 59% of Grizzly teams. While some schools make up for the gap by cutting men's sports, UM Senior Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee says that will not happen in Missoula.
"We've taken a philosophy as an institution that we won't cut sports. I don't believe in that. I don't think that that is the intent of Title IX," she explained.
Montana reaches compliance with the federal law in a different way, as school officials conduct surveys and interviews with female students, asking what new sports they would like, and what experience they have.
Thanks to the large number of softball players in the state's high schools, Montana will soon need to add the sport according to Gee.
"We have all these girls participating in softball, and they have no division 1 program in the state to go to. And so, all of that data put together really points us in that direction."
Title IX also applies to high schools around Montana, but they follow a slightly different set of guidelines.
A 1982 lawsuit led to a settlement agreement, and now every athletic program must meet a set of minimum requirements, such as offering at least the same amount of sports for girls as boys.
"Just by joining administration in Montana you have to be aware of what's in that handbook. So I think in that respect, Montana administrators are just a little step ahead maybe of other state," commented MHSA Associate Director JoAnne Austin.
Both Austin and Gee believe that Title IX is just as important today as ever. Austin sites a recent case where Quinnipiac University in Connecticut tried to cut it's volleyball program, but made cheerleading an official sport to offset the loss of women athletes.
"They were falsely inflating their female participation numbers. Without the federal law, I'm not sure what would have happened in that case," Austin told us.
"For a lot of schools, big time schools, football is king. Football is what makes them the money and I really think that Title IX keeps them in check to some extent," Gee added. "And I think that if Title IX were to go away, you'd start to see a slide back, and more and more money and funds being funneled into football...where you would literally probably have football only schools."
Opponents of Title IX say that the law can lead to reverse discrimination. For example, if many men on the UM campus wanted to add wrestling or baseball, the University's hands would be tied. They couldn't currently add a men's sport because Title IX applies to only the under-represented sex, which at Montana is female.