Opportunity Awards

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Soccer has been the fastest growing sport among women.
Soccer has been the fastest growing sport among women.

June 5, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -For Billie Jean King, opportunity means everything.

On Tuesday, she honored Purdue, Tennessee Tech, Washington State and SUNY at Buffalo for making gender equity a priority. The four schools were winners of the Women's Sports Foundation's inaugural "Opportunity Awards," created in honor of the 35th anniversary of Title IX.

"We are still underrepresented, but we're getting there," said King, founder of the Women's Sports Foundation. "We know it's invaluable to be in sports."

Each school earned an "A" in a new study entitled "Who's Playing College Sports?" that addresses college sports participation levels from 1995-2005.

Compiled by Dr. John Cheslock of the University of Arizona in conjunction with the Women's Sports Foundation, the report looked at Division I, II, III and all six major college athletic organizations - NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA, NJCAA, COA, NWAAC.

The 'A' schools had a gap of two points or less in the percentage of female athletes to the female student body. An 'F' required a gap of 22 points or more.

A sampling of grades at prominent schools: Arizona (B+), Connecticut (B+), Colorado (B), Florida (B-), Georgia (C+), Iowa (C+), Kansas (B+), Michigan (A), Minnesota (B+), North Carolina (C-), Notre Dame (A-), Oregon (C), Rutgers (C+), Stanford (A), Temple (B-), Tennessee (B+), Texas (B+), USC (B+), Washington (A-) and Wisconsin (A-).

The NCAA earned a C.

"Providing equitable opportunities for female student-athletes is a core value of the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletic Department and something we take very seriously," athletics director Morgan Burke said. "While we certainly are not seeking recognition for what we should be doing, we nonetheless appreciate being selected for something that is important to us and something that we work hard at doing well."

The study indicated women's sports made steady gains in the mid-1990s, but those increases have stalled since 2001. As of 2004-05, women comprised 56 percent of undergraduates but only 42 percent of athletes. According to the report, an additional 151,000 female athletes would need to be added to reach 56 percent.

To comply with Title IX, a school can show proportionality of female athletes to female students on campus; a history of increasing sports for women; or prove it has met the interest and ability of the underrepresented group.

Some 87 percent of schools did not achieve proportionality, according to the report, and 75 percent did not increase the number of women's sports since 2001.

Soccer was the fastest growing sport among women by more than 4,000 participants, followed by rowing (2,779), softball (2,203), swimming (1,630) and lacrosse (1,550).

King contends female athletes remain significantly underrepresented in college sports and Title IX should not be weakened.

"Young people are the future," she said. "Young girls are still underserved. We need to keep working on girls having equal opportunity."