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Title IX Refresher: Key Considerations in Gender-Equity Planning [Higher-Ed/College Athletics Best Practices Alert (Second Quarter 2014)]

Author: Justin P. Sievert, Esquire (Senior Counsel)

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, 20 USC §1681 et. seq., (“Title IX”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal financial assistance. The law applies to every aspect of a college or university, including intercollegiate athletics. Title IX is applied to the operation of intercollegiate athletic programs through three basic elements:

  • Participation: Institutions are required to provide women and men equitable opportunities to participate in sports. The law, however, does not require institutions to offer identical sport programs for females and males, but an equal opportunity for members of each sex to participate.
  • Scholarships: Title IX requires that female and male student-athletes receive from institutions athletically-related aid monies proportionate to their participation in intercollegiate athletics.
  • Benefits and Opportunities: Title IX requires institutions to provide for the equitable treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services; and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.

In light of these requirements, Buckner recommends NCAA institutions develop a gender-equity improvement protocol to ensure department compliance with Title IX regulations. As a result, the following best practices should be considered:

  • Provide regular educational sessions to athletics department staff members, coaches, student-athletes, boosters and staff members who interface with the athletics department, to better understand gender-equity and Title IX.
  • Develop a gender-equity improvement plan to implement every five years. This plan should identify key issues, set measurable goals, outline steps to achieve them, designate institutional staff members responsible for overseeing the steps necessary to achieve these goals and create a timeline for when the goals should be completed.
  • Create a Title IX/Gender-Equity Committee to provide a continuous evaluation of men’s and women’s sport programs and an exploration into any disparities that may exist. In addition to assisting with the development of the gender-equity improvement plan, the Committee should ensure the plan is implemented accordingly and that progress and goals are being monitored.
  • Retain an outside firm to conduct a Title IX audit and gender-equity planning review of your intercollegiate athletics department on an ongoing basis. [Note: Buckner recommends an audit be conducted at least once every five years.]

Contact Justin P. Sievert (954-941-1844; jsievert@bucknersportslaw.com) for additional recommendations relating to Title IX compliance and gender-equity planning.