Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects against discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. One of the key ways in which Title IX impacts college athletes is by requiring that women, and any other students on the basis of sex, are not excluded from activities that include sports programs. In practice, this means that Title IX requires colleges and universities to have equal access to sports programs for women as for men, which has typically meant creating more women’s sports teams and expanding access to sports programs. In short, Title IX requires gender equity in sports, and colleges and universities must be in compliance.

What is Title IX?

Title IX specifically 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 subjects to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The federal law applies to colleges and universities, educational agencies, and other educational institutions.

Beyond having an impact on employment in education and access to educational opportunities, Title IX also affects college sports programs and prohibits an educational institution or agency from denying athletics opportunities on the basis of sex or discriminating against student athletes on the basis of sex. When Title IX was passed in 1972, colleges and universities were no longer able to restrict women from taking certain courses, majoring in particular fields, or participating in activities.

Requirements for College and University Sports After Title IX

Colleges and universities in the U.S. that receive any kind of federal funding must provide equal opportunities for participation in athletics to male and female students.

In order to be in compliance with Title IX, colleges and university are required to offer equal opportunities for both male and female students to participate in sports, to provide equal coaching and training benefits to men’s and women’s sports teams, to provide equal access to medical services for male and female athletes, to equally publicize male and female sports, to offer equal access to tutoring and educational benefits for athletes regardless of sex, and to distribute athletic scholarships fairly between male and female athletes.

Sports Programs Cannot Enact Budget Cuts That Unfairly Impact Women’s Sports

Title IX also prohibits colleges and universities from making athletics budget cuts that affect women’s athletics disproportionately. Athletics programs cannot make budget cuts that result in inequalities to women’s sports, or to female athletes.

When courts determine whether a college or university has violated Title IX in making budget cuts or otherwise, it considers three parts of a three-prong test, and a university or college must satisfy only one of the three prongs:

  • Whether the athletics participation opportunities in sports for male and female students are proportionate to the enrollment of male and female students
  • Whether the college or university has a history of expanding its programs in response to the interests of students of the underrepresented sex
  • Whether students of the underrepresented sex have been fully accommodated by the existing opportunities

If you have questions about Title IX and athletics programs, or if you believe you may have a claim under Title IX, you should seek advice from a national Title IX athletics and gender equity in sports lawyer.