Zachary Winn

Equinox Staff


Since 1972, Title IX has acted as a guideline for colleges and high schools across the nation to ensure equal opportunities in athletics for both males and females.

Also named the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of the congresswomen who pioneered bill, Title IX helps fight gender discrimination by requiring high schools and colleges to meet the same standards for women’s athletics as they do for men.

The law officially states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”

When it is applied to schools, Athletic Director John Ratliff explains, they can comply in one of three ways.  “The first option is that your student athlete population, both male and female, needs to be comparable with your student body,” Ratliff said.  “So if you have 60 percent females at your school, then somewhere within a few percentage points of that you should have the percentage of student athletes that are female.  That’s the first prong of the three prong test that they use.”

The second “prong” deals with whether or not the high school or college has showed or is showing advancement in athletic opportunities for both genders based on interest.  “You need to show a history of adding programs for women,” Ratliff said.

The third “prong” asks that you accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of women on campus.  As you can see in the final two prongs, female interest in specific sports is a driving force behind the development of more athletic openings.

A common criticism of Title IX is that, because schools have to create funding for women’s programs equal to those of men’s, some schools struggle to find the funds and cut the sports altogether, limiting opportunities for men.  The idea that Title IX has led to the loss of men’s sports is a common one.

But Ratliff doesn’t think schools have the right to point their fingers at Title IX.  “Title IX is made to improve competition numbers for women, and so if the institution says, ‘Oh, Title IX is making us drop this sport,’ no it’s not.”  Ratliff continued, “They’re not making any schools do that, they are asking you to add women’s programs.”

Ratliff did concede that schools sometimes struggle to find the funds necessary to keep both genders sports equal. “Now financially you have to find a way to maintain quality programs and unfortunately [cutting programs altogether] happens.”  Ratliff said, “I hate seeing men’s programs dropped but ideally what should be going on is the schools are looking for alternative ways to fund women’s sports rather than just dropping a men’s sport to compensate.”

When asked how he thought Keene State was doing complying with Title IX Ratliff explained how the numbers add up, “I think KSC is in good shape.  I think our percentage numbers are off a little bit, I think Keene is something like 56 percent female enrollment, and only about 51 percent of student athletes are female, which is borderline.  But if you dig a little deeper, we offer more sports for women, than we do men,” Ratliff said.

So why the disparity between sports offered and percentage of female athletes?  “If you look at the two basketball programs, we spend the exact same on each gender, but there’s more people on the men’s team.”  Ratliff explained, “Only because there’s more of an interest there.  I think that’s because women at the end of the bench are thinking, ‘I got better things to do than sit on a bench the whole game.’ Where I think guys at times will look at it and think, ‘I just want to be part of the team I don’t care if I play or not.’ So sometimes the male teams tend to carry a little bit more players.”

Sophomore field hockey player Julie Trombetta agrees that Keene State is doing a great job keeping things equal. “I think KSC does a great job with everything. The practice times, field conditions, locker rooms, even publicity-wise, they say, ‘Come support the Keene basketball team!’ It’s never anything gender specific,” Trombetta said.

Ratliff said if you look at how each team is treated and just do the right thing, you won’t have to worry about Title IX.  He cites examples such as getting each team’s new uniforms every three years and making sure every team gets the same professionally driven bus to go to away games in.

“I mean those aren’t Title IX issues but their program issues because it’s what is right for the program.  So we try to treat every team equally, not even based on gender but just based on what’s the right thing to do.”  Ratliff continued, “If you do what’s right and fair for every program then that’s going to have you in compliance to Title IX.”


Zachary Winn can be contacted at

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