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

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.