Title IX, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on June 23, 1972, applies to any public and private school that receives federal funding, from preschool to postgraduate.
The act requires that men and women be given equal opportunity to participate in sports. Over the years that has come to be interpreted as meaning that the number of female athletes must be proportional to the overall student body; that they receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and that all athletes be treated the same in such areas as equipment, travel, coaching, training, medical care, tutoring, housing and recruitment.
Title IX has brought more women into college sports than ever before. The number of female varsity athletes has grown fivefold since 1970 - from about 32,000 in 1972 to 150,000 today, according to the U. S. Department of Education.
An examination of data that colleges and universities are required to file with the Department of Education reveals that nearly 80 percent of them are not yet in compliance.
Schools have lost all eight Title IX cases that reached the federal appeals court level, according to the National Women's Law Center.
Colleges have three ways to prove equality in participation: They can display gender "proportionality"; a history of improvements in women's programs; or proof that women's interests have been accommodated.
The latter two standards are somewhat vague, so courts have leaned on proportionality - which critics have labeled a form of quota - as the truest test of Title IX.
College officials say it is a difficult standard to meet, particularly because the statistics continue to show more women than men enrolling in post-secondary institutions.
"If you're shooting for proportionality," said Scott Johnson, athletic director at California State University, Fresno, "you're shooting at a constantly moving target because the male-female ratio changes year to year."
Coming up with plans to address proportionality has led to some painful and contentious decisions.
"It's first of all a moral issue," said Charles Pollock, vice president for student affairs at Bucknell University, which recently downgraded crew to a club sport and eliminated wrestling because of Title IX concerns. "But when you overlay the legal issues, it may well be unsolvable."
Many tradition-rich men's sports find themselves in peril because administrators would rather eliminate wrestling and men's gymnastics than fund new women's programs by cutting the budgets of football and men's basketball, the unchallenged behemoths of college sports.
Advocates say it was never Title IX's purpose to reduce opportunities for men. They suggest the problem exists not because of Title IX, but because of the unchallenged giant of college sports - football.
Football, with its huge budgets and its rosters of 100 or more players, makes proportionality difficult.
To balance the number of football players, schools must either add more women's sports or reduce the size - or number - of their men's squads. "Cut football scholarships from 85 to 60 and the problem is solved," said Donna Lopiano, head of the Women's Sports Foundation. Penn State coach Joe Paterno noted that football scholarships already have been trimmed from 110 to 85 in the last two decades, a total he calls too small for college football's two-platoon system. "If the presidents want to go back to one-platoon football and make freshmen ineligible, then I'd be all for 65," Paterno said.
Spending cutbacks are unlikely at the 48 Division I-A schools that, according to the latest NCAA figures, make money on football. Besides, those schools earn enough money from the sport to support their entire programs, for men and women.
What about the other 67 I-A schools, like Temple, that run an average athletic deficit of $6.3 million a year, largely because of football? Administrators insist that even for those schools, football is an important revenue source.
"The schools in Division I-A football, even those not currently making money, recognize [that] the revenue-producing potential of football far exceeds that of any other sport," said University of Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage. "And besides, while they might not be making a profit, they are generating revenue. And that alone is significant."
Proud to be an American
Not blind. Not uninformed. We are party to atrocities. But the response of the world after 9/11 is worth noting. Even our most dire enemies offered aid. We should all be so lucky.