2012 Summer Conference: Title IX, 40 years later June 24, 2012
By Jason Wolf
Greensboro News & Record
CHICAGO – Ginny Georgantas was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. She had behavioral issues and disliked school. She struggled in the classroom.
And sports saved her.
"I cannot imagine not having the opportunity to play softball," Georgantas said on the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon signing Title IX into law, as AWSM and APSE combined to discuss the landmark legislation Saturday morning during the sports media organizations' first joint national convention in Chicago.
"It was an educational tool for me…" she said. "I got the opportunity to play in the Olympics and go to college, and that has really set me up for the rest of my life."
Title IX simply 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." But it has changed our world, helping to create untold opportunities for female athletes, especially in the high school and college ranks.
But it "was less focused on sports at the beginning — it was about educational opportunities," session moderator Karen Wall Bush said.
Title IX has also stirred controversy over the years, especially with some colleges cutting men's athletic programs. Marcia Keegan of ESPN dismissed the thought that these cuts are simply a result of institutions finding a way to afford greater opportunities to women.
"There has been a decline in Division I men's sports," she said, "but all the money of that has not gone to Title IX sports. It's gone to basketball and football."
The reach of Title IX has extended beyond the athletics realm and has helped change the attitude toward women in the U.S. in general — including in the newsroom.
Lauren Gustus, the sports editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal, spoke about how as a child, her father encouraged her to play sports, rather than be a cheerleader. She also discussed how a minor league baseball team she covered early in her career had to set up ground rules for her entering the locker room to conduct interviews.
Someone would bark: "FEMALE REPORTER IN ONE MINUTE!"
"And all eyes were on me…" she said. "It was a different experience for them and for me. … But it wasn't all bad."
Joe Sullivan, the longtime sports editor of the Boston Globe, talked about how he thought little of women in sports earlier in his career.
"I was a disinterested bystander … and didn't care, really," Sullivan said.
"But I'll admit it. I've changed. I've learned that my disinterest back then was negligent in a way," he said. "I wasn't paying attention. I was thinking about other things, and I missed the boat."
Georgantas helped lead her high school softball team to a state championship, went on to attend the University of South Florida and played in the 2004 Athens Olympics, opportunities that were unthinkable for women just a generation earlier.
There's still a long way to go as far as gender equality and acceptance of women, especially in the athletics realm in this country. But there's no question about the tremendous positive impact Title IX has had on Georgantas and the lives of countless American women.
"I'm very grateful for this law that was passed 40 years ago," she said.