Title IX is 50 years old. Why aren’t schools complying with the law?

UConn vs. South Carolina in the 2022 women's basketball national championship game
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There are many reasons to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the positive impact it has had on women’s sports, and yet there are also plenty of ways the landmark legislation hasn’t yet met its full potential.

As we enter the next 50 years of Title IX, here are a few examples of how new policies and better enforcement of the law could lead to more equal playing fields across the United States.

Despite 50 years of Title IX, most schools aren’t in compliance with the law

The sports participation gender gap starts early, and it continues all the way through college.

According to a report from the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), just 60% of girls compete in high school sports compared to 75% of boys. In fact, girls today have fewer opportunities to participate in high school sports than boys did in 1972.

At the collegiate level, 86% of NCAA institutions aren’t offering opportunities proportional to their enrollment. While women account for nearly 60% of college students nationwide, they have just 43% of college sports opportunities. This has a significant economic impact, with women missing out on $252 million of athletic scholarships. Per year.

“There’s sort of this widespread acknowledgement, like, ‘Well, schools aren’t complying’ and, you know, we’re 50 years in. That’s not great,” says investigative journalist Rachel Axon, who worked on a USA Today series that examined how Title IX has fallen short.

At the University of North Carolina (UNC), for example, the athletic department would need to add nearly 400 women’s roster spots in order to reach proportionality with its student body enrollment. UNC told USA Today that it is in compliance with the law through “prong three” of Title IX, meaning it is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students.

“And we asked them… ‘What are your surveys telling you? Are you getting requests from club teams to be elevated?’ And they declined to answer our questions on that and just gave us a generic statement,” says Axon.

White women have disproportionately benefited from Title IX

Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that women of color are participating in sport at lower levels than white women.

At high schools where the majority of students are Black and/or Hispanic, girls receive 67% of the opportunities that are available to boys, according to WSF research. In comparison, at predominantly white high schools, girls have 82% of the opportunities that boys do. Women of color are also underrepresented in coaching and administrative positions, too.

The WSF recommended two policy changes to address these disparities: 1) that the Department of Education collect race-specific data on sports participation; and 2) that Congress pass the High School Data Transparency act, which would “require schools to publicly report information on the status of female and male athletes and students, broken down by race and ethnicity, as well as expenditures on each sponsored sports team.”

RELATED: Nine (or so) to know on the 50th anniversary of Title IX

Title IX has no proactive, systematic enforcement mechanism

The concept behind Title IX is that — if federally funded institutions do not comply with the law — their funding can be taken away.

And yet, in 50 years of Title IX, the Department of Education has never stripped an institution of all federal funding. Instead, Title IX has been primarily been enforced through Civil Rights complaints, lawsuits and media attention.

While the NCAA has come under fire for its unequal treatment of men’s and women’s tournaments, the non-profit organization — which receives most of its funding from television, marketing rights and ticket sales — isn’t actually subject to Title IX, even though nearly all of its member organizations are.

That said, the organization could certainly take a much stronger role in making sure the legislation is enforced. The NCAA previously led a gender equity review in the 1990s and 2000s to encourage greater compliance, but the program was suspended in 2011.

“It could be doing more if it wanted to. It doesn’t want to,” says Axon.

Title IX isn’t always inclusive of women with disabilities

While Title IX was meant to provide girls and women with equal opportunity, girls and women with disabilities have often been left behind.

This is something Tatyana McFadden experienced in 2005 as a freshman at Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland, when she was prohibited from racing at the same time as her able-bodied track teammates.

“All I wanted to do was join high school track, but I was denied a uniform, I was denied (the opportunity) to race alongside others, and was practicing separately as well,” recalls McFadden. “I just thought, ‘We are in the 21st Century and I am 100% being discriminated against as a female athlete with a disability.”

McFadden filed suit against her school district — requesting equal competitive access — and won. This led to Maryland passing the Maryland Fitness and Athletes Equity for Students with Disabilities Act (also known as “Tatyana’s Law”), and in 2013, a U.S. Department of Education mandate.

And yet, women with disabilities still often have to fight for opportunities that are readily available to their able-bodied peers. Similar to Title IX itself, there is no proactive enforcement of the U.S. Department of Education mandate to ensure that students with disabilities are being given equitable opportunities.

RELATED: Scout Bassett hopes future collegiate para athletes have more opportunities

Fewer women are coaching women’s teams today than pre-Title IX

Before Title IX was passed in 1972, 90% of women’s collegiate teams were coached by women. These days, that number is closer to 41%. (And to be clear, that percentage refers to women coaching women’s teams; women are rarely considered for positions coaching men’s teams.)

This disparity continues to Olympic and professional leagues, where many women’s teams are currently being coached by men. At last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, just 21.1% of head coaches of Team USA were women, according to a Women’s Sports Foundation report.

In the name of ‘protecting’ women’s sports, transgender girls and women are under attack

Despite all of the tangible issues outlined above, 50 years after Title IX, nearly all current legislation about women’s sports is about excluding transgender women and girls, a group that is disproportionately affected by discrimination, harassment and deadly violence.

To put this in perspective: USA Today’s reporting found that six FBS universities in Ohio — Ohio State, Miami University, Ohio University, Bowling Green State, University of Toledo, and Kent State — are using loopholes and roster manipulation to make it look like they are closer to Title IX compliance than they actually are. By double- and triple- counting athletes, padding rowing rosters, and including male practice players, the six schools combined to inflate women’s rosters by 225 spots, all without adding any new women’s teams.

But rather than address this issue, Ohio House Republicans earlier this month passed a bill that not only bars transgender girls from playing sports, but also makes all girls subject to genital inspections. This is despite the fact that the Ohio High School Athletic Association said just five transgender athletes played school sports last year.

The Women’s Sports Foundation has recommended that the U.S. Department of Education “issue specific policy guidelines confirming that Title IX should be interpreted to provide opportunities to transgender and nonbinary students to participate in sports in a manner consistent with their gender identities” and for state policymakers to implement “inclusive policies for transgender and nonbinary athletes.”

Correction: A previous version of this story included the University of Akron as one of the Ohio schools that had padded roster numbers. It was actually Kent State. 

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

2023 LPGA Drive On Championship: How to watch, who’s playing in season’s first full-field event

Jin-young Ko of South Korea and Nelly Korda on the 17th tee during the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
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The LPGA Tour makes its return to the Arizona desert this week at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club. The season’s first full-field event features eight of the world’s top 10 players plus a slew of fresh faces as this year’s rookie class gets its first taste of competition as tour members.

This week’s event features 144 players (plus two Monday qualifiers) competing for the $1.75 million prize purse in a 72-hole tournament that will implement the LPGA’s new cutline policy for the first time. Beginning this week, the 36-hole cut will change from the top 70 players and ties to the top 65 and ties advancing to weekend action. The LPGA says it hopes to “establish a faster pace of play” with the change.”

Arizona last hosted the LPGA for the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club, where Jin Young Ko earned her first of four LPGA titles that season. The tour last played at Superstition Mountain in the Safeway International from 2004 to 2008, where Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam (2004, 2005) and Lorena Ochoa (2007, 2008) each won twice, and Juli Inkster won in 2006.

The tournament marks the first of four events over the next five weeks (taking off the week of the Masters, April 7-10) and kicks off the crescendo that’s building to the LPGA’s first major of the season, The Chevron Championship, April 20-23 in its new location at The Woodlands, Texas. The 72-hole LPGA Drive On Championship features 144 players, in addition to two Monday qualifiers, who will compete for a $1.75 million purse.

How to watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

You can watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship on Golf Channel, Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Check out the complete TV and streaming schedule:

  • Thursday, March 23: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, March 24: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, March 25: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, March 26: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

Sitting out this week are world No. 1 Lydia Ko and No. 5 Minjee Lee, but No. 2 Nelly Korda and No. 3 Jin Young Ko are back in action following Ko’s return to the winner’s circle two weeks ago in Singapore, where she held off Korda by two strokes. Also in the field this week are:

  • No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 7 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 8 In Gee Chun
  • No. 9 Hyo-Joo Kim
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka
  • 2022 major winners Ashleigh Buhai, Jennifer Kupcho, Chun, Henderson

Rookies and Epson Tour graduates making their first starts as LPGA members include 20-year-old Lucy Li, a two-time Epson Tour winner who might be best known for playing the 2014 U.S.  Women’s Open as an 11-year-old; South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu, who took medalist honors at LPGA Q-Series; and 18-year-old Alexa Pano, who finished tied for 21st at Q School to earn her card but might be best known from her role in the 2013 Netflix documentary, “The Short Game.”

Past winners, history of the Drive On Championship

The Drive On Championship was initially created as a series of LPGA events that marked the tour’s back-to-competition efforts following the pandemic. Each tournament used the “Drive On” slogan in support of the tour’s resilience, beginning with the first series event in July 2020 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, where Danielle Kang won by one stroke over Celine Boutier. The second event, held in October 2020, replaced the three stops originally scheduled in Asia, and was held at Reynolds Lake Oconee Great Waters Course in Greensboro, Georgia. Ally McDonald captured her career first LPGA title by one stroke over Kang.

The last two “Drive On” events were staged in Florida, at Golden Ocala Golf Club (Ocala) in March 2021 and at Crown Colony Golf Club (Fort Myers) in February 2022. Austin Ernst cruised to her third career title at the 2021 edition, beating Jennifer Kupcho by five shots. The 2022 tournament marked a fresh start for the event (no longer including results or records from the 2020 and 2021 events), where Leona Maguire became the first Irish winner on tour with her victory in 2022.

Last year at the Drive On Championship

Ireland’s Leona Maguire gifted her mom and early birthday present with her first career win at the 2022 LPGA Drive On Championship. A 27-year-old Maguire, a standout at Duke and former No. 1 amateur, carded a final-round 67 to finish at 18-under 198 and won the 54-hole event by three strokes over Lexi Thompson. She became the first woman from Ireland to win on tour, and her 198 tied her career-best 54-hole score.

More about Superstition Mountain

Superstition Mountain’s Prospector Golf Course opened in 1998 and was a combined design effort by Jack Nicklaus and his son Gary. The course plays as a par-72 and stretches to 7,225 yards in length, with the women playing it at 6,526 yards. The course was home of the LPGA Safeway International from 2004-08, and was recently selected by Golfweek as one of the “Top 100 Residential Courses.”

Of note, Superstition Mountain is a female-owned facility, originally purchased in 2009 by Susan Hladky and her husband James, who died in 2011. Hladky has made a point of opening her courses to women and college players, twice hosting U.S. Women’s Open qualifying and the site of a 2025 NCAA women’s regional tournament. She’s also given membership to eight LPGA players, who play out of the club: Carlota Ciganda, Mina Harigae, Dana Finkelstein, Jaclyn Lee, Charlotte Thomas, Caroline Inglis, Jennifer Kupcho and Brianna Do.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

“I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

So, what changed?

“Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like to play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

“Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

“When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” Roberts said regarding the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

“She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

“We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

As for guiding the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

“I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

“This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

RELATED: 2023 March Madness 2023 — Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship