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Earlier this year – June 23 to be exact – the 40th anniversary of Title IX was recognized and celebrated around the country. I recall how many great stories I came across that week from people – both athletes and non-athletes – whose lives were forever changed by the 37-word bill. It was fascinating to read the accounts and narratives of all those who not only benefitted from Title IX, but also those who championed its cause and whose efforts made this legislation possible.
However there was something else that stood out to me that week and that was the number of people – particularly those who today have opportunities because of this legislation – who either were oblivious to the significance of Title IX or who quite simply had a distorted and/or erroneous perception of it.
For me, personally, Title IX meant having the opportunity to get a scholarship and play basketball for a fully funded program. It meant not being denied simply because I was female, which was not the case before Title IX.
As a woman in education and athletics, I will be forever indebted to Senator Birch Bayh and President Nixon and his administration for helping pass this legislation. I especially think it is important for today’s generation of young women to know the reason why they are afforded the opportunities they have.
Equally important as educating this generation and reeducating others about the benefits of Title IX is making people aware of the misnomers that have caused so many to have a negative perception of Title IX.
Title IX women's basketball season-opener: The Sun Devil women's basketball team faces powerhouse Texas Tech at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11, in Wells Fargo Arena, for the season-opening game. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the Sun Devils will hold a special halftime ceremony to honor 40 extraordinary individuals who have helped create opportunities for girls and women.
First and foremost, Title IX was not born out of athletics but rather education. Because athletics usually tends to be the ‘front porch’ – the part that receives the most attention in the media – of universities and even many high schools, it is usually going to receive exponentially more concentration than the same issues on the academic side. For that reason, people often associate Title IX with taking away opportunities rather than giving them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In its most simple form, Title IX represents equal opportunity for men and women to participate in educational programs and activities. It does not mandate which sports schools must carry. Those decisions are the result of economical and financial choices made by administrators. Did you know there are some schools that don’t sponsor softball? Women’s gymnastics? Women’s soccer? The point is that for every school that does not have a men’s soccer program or a men’s hockey or men’s lacrosse program, there is also a school that does not have the aforementioned sports I named for women. Does that mean opportunities are being taken away from them, too?
With that in mind we – all those involved in the Sun Devil women’s basketball program – came up with the idea of launching a campaign that would serve to reeducate today’s generation about Title IX.
The tagline we attached to our celebration of Title IX is "Every One Wins," simply because the legislation dictates that no one "shall on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination…”
Using social media as the primary vehicle for our campaign, we have made efforts to inform the public about the facts of Title IX and, most importantly, illustrating its effects by telling the stories of those whose lives were shaped by it, both before and after its inception.
This campaign will culminate with our home opener against Texas Tech on Nov. 11 when we will be honoring some local heroes and pioneers who helped pave the way for what we have today. We will also be recognizing others who took advantage of all their opportunities, not only for themselves, but for all men and women coming up.
We hope you will join us for this event as we celebrate that which is the simplest thing any of us can hope for in life: opportunity.
Charli Turner Thorne is head coach of the ASU women's basketball team. She is returning for this her 16th season after taking a voluntary leave of absence during the 2011-2012 season. She is the winningest coach in Sun Devil history and No. 3 in the Pac-12 in most career wins.