The NCAA and Title IX

Morgan Slade
Associate Editor
Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, JD 2017


The NCAA has focused on gender equality in intercollegiate athletics by complying with federal and state laws and establishing an inclusive environment free of gender bias. This article outlines some of the challenges colleges face in maintaining compliance with these laws.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. Sect. 1681) is a Federal statute created to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance. IX applies to NCAA member school athletic programs through participation, scholarships and other benefits.

Title IX does not require schools to offer identical sports to both men and women, but it does impose a requirement for equal opportunity to play and participate. The law further requires that both female and male student athletes receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation. Regulations require equality of student athlete provisions, such as equipment, supplies, coaching and practice facilities.

 The NCAA Gender Equity Task Force defined gender equity in sports as: “an athletic program can be considered gender equitable when the participants in both the men’s and the women’s sport programs would accept as fair and equitable the overall program of the other gender. No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of gender, institutionally or nationally, in intercollegiate athletics.”

Compliance with Title IX

In addition to scholarship and provision equality for male and female athletes, an institution has to comply with the participation requirements. Institutions must meet one of the following three tests: (1) provide participation opportunities for both men and women that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students; (2) demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex; or (3) fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

When assessing Title IX compliance, men’s student athlete programs are compared to the entirety of the women’s program, rather than a sport to sport comparison. The comparison of programs in this way emphasizes Title IX’s assertion that equality between men’s and women’s programs do not require mirror image implementation.

Institutions are responsible for complying with the federal laws and The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education enforces Title IX. In 1990, OCR issued the “Title IX Athletics Investigator’s Manual,” – a policy to assist athletics departments with enforcement and compliance issues regarding Title IX. The institutions have a responsibility to mandate and designate at least one employee to oversee compliance efforts pursuant to Title IX.

The NCAA’s Title IX compliance structure creates an intercollegiate athletics environment with less disparity between the genders. By mandating the use of task forces and a Title IX compliance officer, the NCAA can effectively monitor and implement the student athlete program structures to ensure a fair chance to play.