DeFilippo: Title IX Report Will Not Affect BC Sports

Athletic director discusses work with commission studying gender equity

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Boston College's varsity athletic program will not be affected by recent recommendations for changes in the Title IX gender-equity law, according to Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo, who recently served on a national commission studying the controversial statute.


Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo: "Boston College has already made a major commitment to be in compliance with Title IX, not just because it is the law, but rather because we felt it was the right thing and the fair thing to do." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
DeFilippo was a member of the 15-member Commission on Opportunity in Athletics appointed by US Secretary of Education Rod Paige to assess Title IX, which is credited for the substantial increase in women participating in scholastic and intercollegiate athletics. But the 25-year-old statute has drawn criticism for allegedly decreasing athletic opportunities for male students, especially in "Olympic" or non-revenue producing sports.

Interviewed last week following the release of the commission's report, DeFilippo discussed his work with the group and offered an overview of the University's Title IX status.

"Boston College has already made a major commitment to be in compliance with Title IX," he said, "not just because it is the law, but rather because we felt it was the right thing and the fair thing to do."

DeFilippo said that the University has restructured its athletic program in the past five years to bring it in line with Title IX regulations. "We have approximately 375 men and approximately 375 women participating in our athletic program," he said. "We have approximately 125 scholarships for men and approximately 125 for women.

"We have added 45 scholarships on the women's side; 36 of those were new scholarships and nine of those we took from men's sports and moved them over to the women's side. Whatever recommendations are considered or changes are made [as a result of the commission's report] will not have a significant effect on Boston College."

The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics was formed last year by Paige at the request of President George Bush. The group held meetings in Washington, DC, at the end of January to evaluate aspects of the 1978 statute that prohibits gender discrimination in programs that receive federal funding.

Due in significant part to the enactment of Title IX, the number of girls participating in high school sports rose from 294,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million last year. The number of women participating in college sports increased fivefold during the same period. Boston College sponsored its first women's varsity athletic teams in 1972.

"I think the commission was very open-minded," said DeFilippo. "We went in with the premise that in no way would we want to take opportunities from women, but rather to continue to enhance opportunities for women.

"At the same time, we wanted to make sure that we looked for ways to enhance opportunities for male 'walk-on' athletes and some of the male Olympic sports that had taken some cuts," he said.

DeFilippo said that the group forwarded some 20 recommendations to Paige, most of which involved assessment of institutional compliance with Title IX rules.

Compliance is currently measured by a three-pronged method: the proportion of male and female student- athletes in relation to the institution's male-female enrollment; the ability of the school to demonstrate an ongoing history of broadening athletic opportunities for women; and the school's demonstration that it is "fully and effectively" accommodating the interests and abilities of women.

"Many legal counselors tell the institutions that in a court of law, the only 'safe harbor' is proportionality," DeFilippo said. "The commission has asked the Department of Education to provide more clarity in the definition for prongs two and three, so that they too may become safe harbors for an institution, and that there will be more than one way to be in compliance with Title IX."

The commission was chaired by Cynthia Cooper, a former WNBA player and coach, and Stanford University Athletic Director Ted Leland.

Other members were: University of Michigan Professor Percy Bates; University of Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby; Olympic gold medal swimmer Donna de Varona; Women's Sports Foundation President Julie Foudy; Brigham Young University General Counsel Thomas Griffith; Northern Illinois University Athletic Director Cary Groth; and Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive officer of the Education Leaders Council.

Also serving were University of Notre Dame Women's Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw; American University Professor Rita Simon, president of the Women's Freedom Network; Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive; Penn State University President Graham Spanier; and University of Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow.

 

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