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Timothy Myers: Women win gold thanks to Title IX

Posted: August 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Back in 2006 a resurrected Canyon Cowboys football team under legendary coach Harry Welch shocked the perhaps even more legendary Concord de la Salle football team to capture the recently returned California State Football Championship. A truly big deal, with local celebrations including a short victory parade on city streets in Canyon Country with attendant speeches by various city dignitaries.

In the attention of that shining moment, some local folks who actually pay attention to the full panoply of sports pointed out the Valencia High School softball team’s capture of the national championship in that same year.

An embarrassed city quickly cobbled together a decidedly more modest recognition.

Now I do not bemoan the disparate public interest between mens’ and womens’ sports in general or boys’ football and girls’ softball in specific. It does not provide evidence of some deep cultural flaw but instead reflects decades of history and logistics.

I do count myself thankful that Richard M. Nixon (hard to believe his Republican affiliation at this particular time and place) signed into law Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 that requires, among other things, equal sports access and opportunity in educational institutions that receive federal funding.

Yet even 40 years on from the enactment of this landmark legislation, “haters” still bring forth the same tired arguments against it. Title IX would actually reduce opportunities since institutions would cut men’s sports instead of increasing female opportunities. (In fairness, many institutions did use the legislation for cover in eliminating certain expensive and unsuccessful sports programs.)

The marquee “revenue” mens’ sports — basketball and football — actually “pay” for the lesser-known and lesserwatched female sports. (Another trope. Recent objective analysis of the finances of major Division I college football programs showed they suck up pretty much every dime in revenue they generate and in some years actually run a modest deficit.)

But the argument-ender for the haters should arrive when one sums up the results of the 2012 London Olympics, where the U.S. team returned to absolute dominance in every measure of athletic performance.

The U.S. dominated the summer Olympic Games by any measure. The U.S. will actually best the vaunted Chinese in all categories of gold, silver and bronze medals, judged and unjudged sports, and any way one wants to measure outcomes. But what led to this resurgence?

The U.S., hanging behind the Chinese in total medals and gold medals for the month of July, surged in August with dominant performance by American women, particularly in team sports and track and field where the SCV’s own Allyson Felix turned prior silver into gold in the 200 meter sprint, and the 4X100 and 4X400 relays, with a new world record in the second.

Felix edged Canyon Country’s Crystl Bustos, a two-time gold medalist and one-time silver medalist in softball, to ascend to the top of the league tables for performance of SCV Olympic athletes.

The final tallies in these Olympics find that female athletes earned almost two-thirds the gold medals for the U.S. Without their contribution — arguably the four-decade legacy of equal opportunity in women’s sports — the U.S. fans would bemoan the decline of American athletic prowess or engage even in the worse type of apologist “calculations,” talking about per capita medal counts, etc.

But the fact remains that the U.S. women did earn all those medals, I would assert primarily because of Title IX, a concept that foreign nations did not fully or at all embrace.

And in the case of Allyson Felix and Santa Clarita, I would think that would call for a (short) parade.

 Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.

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