Mentioning Title IX to a college athletic administrator usually makes him/her shiver in their shoes. Since it's birth back in the 1970's, its purpose was to make sure that female athletes get the same treatment and have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Those "opportunities" mean comparable facilities, locker rooms, academic support, training table accessibility, coaching get the picture. And that's all good.

What has athletic administrators most fearful is adhering to the "proportionality" prong of Title IX compliance. The most common way for schools to indicate they're meeting the law's requirements of equal opportunity is to show that the male-female balance of athletes closely matches that of the regular student body. In other words, if 57 percent of the student body is female, then female athletes should make up 57 percent of the total number of student-athletes at a school. As you can tell, compliance officials at NCAA schools really must keep total focus on proportionality numbers.

The New York Times recently published an investigative report on how NCAA Division I athletic departments count athletes for Title IX purposes. The picture the study drew was that some schools were fudging on how they accounted for some of their female athletes. For example, the University of South Florida's athletic program was examined in depth.

The Times reported that the school listed 71 athletes on its 2009 women's cross country roster. Upon closer examination, the newspaper found that only 28 team members competed in at least one race during the 2009 season, and that three long jumpers on the track and field team who were also on the cross country roster said they were not members of the cross country squad. In other words, the university was double and sometimes triple-listing female athletes in their Title IX numbers.

USF Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis told the St. Petersburg Times that all members of the track and field team who were eligible for cross country were included on that team's roster. He added that the school would be changing that practice in the future. "There was no ill intent," McGillis said. "In hindsight, I'm not sure we should have included them."

Hang on there, Bill. Your actions actually meet OCR (Office of Civil Rights) guidelines. The OCR is the political body responsible for Title IX enforcement. After lawsuits from female wrestling athletes at the University of California-Davis arguing Title IX non-compliance when they were dropped from the wrestling program in 2001, a federal appeals court initially agreed with them. Part of the wrestler's arguments were that indoor track, outdoor track, and cross country were comprised of basically the same athletes doing the same things in all three sports. They argued that the athletes should not be counted twice or three times, in some cases.

But that same federal appeals court later in 2010 revised that decision to indicate that the number of opportunities to participate determines whether a school is in compliance, not the number of athletes.

"The OCR has been clear in that they consider the three sports to be separate, and they've made that part of their policy guidance," says Janet Judge, an attorney and Title IX expert in Cumberland, Maine. "The policy has been upheld in certain courts, but there are other jurisdictions that have not yet ruled on it, so I think challenges to its legality will probably continue."

So the magic word is "opportunities" to compete. Giving "opportunities" means that coaches need to give uniforms, practice time, and game competition participation to their female athletes in a reasonable manner in order to count female athletes on their rosters under Title IX guidelines. It all usually falls on the shoulders of the coaches any way. It's up to them to make sure their rosters are Title IX compliant, not the athletic administrator.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Brennan, a former educator and college basketball coach, has Masters degrees in Educational Administration and Sport Psychology, and a Doctorate in Performance and Health Psychology. He is the author of several books, including Six Psychological Factors for Success and The Recruiters Bible (3rd Edition). He is President of Peak Performance Consultants, and the President and CEO of the Center for Performance Enhancement Research and Education (CPERE). Steve is the developer of the Success Factors Scales, both Corporate and Athletics Editions. and