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The Father of Women’s Sports: Senator Birch Bayh

An ardent supporter of the ultimately unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment, three-term U.S. Senator Birch Bayh later reflected, “I thought that discrimination against women was the most egregious of all discriminations.”

When ERA failed to be ratified, the Senator from Indiana turned his energies to a law that would mandate equal opportunities for men and women in federally funded educational programs and activities.

Title IX did not explicitly address athletics, but the impact of the 1972 legislation has been most visible in the context of high school and collegiate sports teams and programs. Female athletic participation in high school has increased more than nine-fold, and, at the university level, four and a half times since the introduction of Title IX.

Senator Bayh was the Senate sponsor of Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, which, since 2002, has been renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, in honor of its main author, longtime Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii.

Terre Haute native Bayh’s involvement with the act was allegedly born out of sympathy with his first wife, Marvella, who had been denied access to the University of Virginia because of gender discrimination. Bayh himself took degrees at Purdue and the Indiana University School of Law.

There is general consensus that the effect of Title IX has been monumental in creating parity for girls and women in sports, and increasing athletic participation of both sexes. Nonetheless, the perception persists that the act has reduced funding for men’s teams and programs.

A report conducted in 2003 analyzed Title IX compliance among nine Indiana NCAA Division I institutions. Researchers found that although the participating schools were allocating scholarship funds fairly, the percentage of funding for female athletes lagged about ten per cent behind general female participation in sports.

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