The following remarks were presented April 20, 1995 at the NCAA
Title IX seminar in Baltimore, MD. by Norma V. Cantu. These remarks
were first published, for wide distribution, by The NCAA News on
April 26, 1995. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of
this material is granted provided that the copies are not made
or distributed for commercial advantage and notice is given that
copying is by permission of the Office for Civil Rights. To disseminate
otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further
information, contact Elvira Castillo, Staff Assistant, Office of
the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education,
400 Maryland Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20202 at (202) 205-5413.
ATHLETIC EXPERIENCE VITAL TO BOTH SEXES
By Norma V. Cantu U.S. Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
The following remarks were presented April 20 at the NCAA Title IX
seminar in Baltimore. In the heated and sometimes emotional discussions
of intercollegiate athletics, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger
picture we are dealing with. And when we narrow the focus to a specific
legal or compliance standard, as we will be doing on these panels,
we again run the risk of compounding our
So, I want to begin by reminding all of us why it is so important
that we provide both male and female students nondiscriminatory
opportunity to participate in athletics.
What drove this point home for me was a letter I received a few
weeks ago from a woman in New Jersey regarding the Office for Civil
Rights' enforcement of Title IX. I want to share with you excerpts
from that letter. It starts out:
"My concerns are not self-directed, for my opportunity
has long since passed. My concerns are not for my daughter,
who had a very limited opportunity. My concerns are for
my granddaughters and other young females whose future I
have hope for.
"As a child, I loved athletics and physical activity.
I was talented, but my talent was not appreciated or
approved of by most … I watched my older and younger brothers
teams. It didn't matter that in the neighborhood pick-up
games, I was selected before my brothers. Society dictated
should watch, and they should compete. So at home in
the back yard, I
would catch as my brother worked on his curve ball,
I would shag flies as he developed his batting prowess and,
recall, I frequently
served as his tackling dummy.
"...The brother I caught for, and shagged for, and
served as a tackling dummy for, went on to Georgetown
University on a
full athletics grant. He later became vice-president
of a large banking firm… Since I was also a better student
as well as a more proficient athlete, I am forced to
conclude that his greater success is directly related to
opportunity and access to education.
"So, while I rode in the backseat on the bus of opportunity
during my lifetime, I want my daughter's daughter and
her peers to be able to select a seat based on their abilities
willingness to work. Don't deny them the things I dreamed
How powerful. And this letter touches on only a few of the positive
brought about by participation in athletics.
There are many other benefits to participation. According to
the Institute for Athletics and Education, girls who participate
in sports are three times more likely to graduate from high school,
80 percent less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, and 92 percent
less likely to use drugs. The health benefits are extensive. For
example, studies are reporting that women who participate in sports
lower their risk of breast cancer between 40 and 60 percent. The
medical literature indicates that certain sports and exercises
can reduce osteoporosis, which is costing this nation $18 billion
There also are psychological benefits. The research finds that
women athletes have a higher level of self-esteem and a lower rate
of depression than non athletes. They also are shown to have a more
positive body image, which is particularly important in the development
of a positive self-image. As my fellow panelists will discuss later,
the availability of athletics scholarships dramatically increases
the ability of athletes to pursue a college education and to select
from a greater range of institutions. Eventually, this has implications
for future employability of persons who will go on to become productive
members of our society.
And then there are important values we learn from participation
in sports - teamwork, standards, leadership, discipline, work ethics,
self-sacrifice, pride in accomplishment, strength of character
- lessons that are as important to women as they are to men.
Donna de Varona, who won two gold medals at the 1964 Olympics,
has talked about this. I had the pleasure of speaking with her
when she visited my office several months ago.
A number of former women athletes point to communication learned
in sports competition as key to their upward mobility. Ninety-three
percent of women in one study agreed that women who participated
in sports would be better able to compete successfully later in
life. Another interesting statistic - 80 percent of women who were
identified as key leaders in their Fortune 500 companies had sports
This connection of sports to work is more critical than ever.
The dynamics of the work world are changing dramatically. According
to the latest Department of Labor projections, women will account
for 59 percent of the net increase in the civilian work force between
1992 and 2005. By 2005, the 72 million women workers will constitute
47 percent of the civilian labor force.
Unlike previous trends, the vast majority of these women will
not be leaving the labor force to assume full-time child-rearing
responsibilities. In fact, men will be leaving the labor force
in greater numbers than women. The capacity of women to assume
employment opportunities will affect America's ability to compete
in the world economy as well as our security and quality of life.
A Federal commission was asked to examine the new demands of
the workplace and whether our young people will be capable of meeting
those demands. Specifically, the commission was directed to advise
the secretary of labor on requirements for entering employment.
What interested me was the commission's identification of competencies,
skills and qualities that lie at the heart of job performance.
Again, many relate to those that are often by-products of athletics
participation. Consider the following identified by the commission:
- Participates as a member of the team.
- Interprets and communicates information.
- Monitors and corrects performance.
- Applies technology to task.
It is no wonder that public support for women's participation in
athletics is stronger than ever. Eighty-seven percent of parents
now accept the idea that sports are equally important for boys and
We saw a tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm and respect for
women athletes during the exciting NCAA basketball finals and the
come-from-behind victory of the University of Connecticut. Walter
Cronkite has gone so far to suggest that sports participation is
more necessary today than ever before. Let me share with you a
statement that Cronkite made before the National Football Foundation: "The
discipline of sports that teaches you to keep on trying even when
the odds are against you has even more relevance amid our many
persistent frustrations today. There's a place for the sporting
discipline that trains you - under intense pressure - to keep cool
and act with grace and courage. A sportsman's training may be more
necessary than ever just to live in today's society. But, even
more, the sports, man's courage, devotion, dedication and - most
of all - the discipline of fair play are needed to nudge this world
of ours a little for the better."
And this is true for the sportswoman as well.
The case for providing equal athletics opportunity seems clear
and more compelling than ever. There seems to be misunderstanding,
however, about compliance standards developed under Title IX.
This is particularly true about the standard applied by the department
in determining whether a school provides nondiscriminatory participation
opportunities for males and females. Since 1979, the position of
the department has been and continues to be that a recipient will
be found in compliance with Title IX regarding its obligation to
provide nondiscriminatory participation opportunities if it meets
any part of a three-part test: (1) by providing athletics participation
opportunities in numbers that are substantially proportionate to
enrollment by gender; or (2) by establishing a history and continuing
practice of program expansion for members of the underrepresented
sex; or (3) by fully and effectively accommodating the interests
and abilities of the underrepresented sex.
No one part of the three-part test is preferred by the Office
for Civil Rights or used exclusively by OCR over another as a method
of ensuring compliance with the law. Let me underscore that the
first part of this test is not and is not projected to be the primary
measure of compliance under Title IX. Rather, the three-part test
furnishes three individual avenues for compliance.
An institution has flexibility in choosing which part of the
three-part test with which it will comply. The purpose of the three-part
test is to enforce Congress' intent that neither men nor women
will be discriminated against when being provided opportunities
to participate in athletics. OCR's bottom line has been and will
continue to be one of fully executing the expressed will of Congress.
I would like your help in getting the public to understand the
Title IX compliance standards.
The public also must understand that contrary to some popular
thought, men's athletics participation has not suffered as we have
moved toward increasing athletics opportunities for women. Information
furnished by the NCAA shows that the number of male college athletes
increased by more than 16,000 between 1982 and 1992.
We also would like - and we need your assistance in identifying
ways for enhancing equal opportunity in intercollegiate athletics.
We need your advice and suggestions on all aspects of our compliance
and technical-assistance program.
There is no place for discrimination in sports. Discrimination
goes against the very grain of what competition is all about. In
sports, we encourage and reward only on performance. In our history,
sports have been the great equalizer, crossing all artificial social
and class distinctions and barriers. We need to showcase sports
as a model of equality in American society. With your help, we
will make greater strides in establishing a level playing field
for all who wish to take advantage of athletics opportunity.
Norma V. Cantu is assistant secretary for civil rights of
the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.