Title IX Funding Gap Widens for Women’s Sports: NCAA Report

In honor of 50 years of Title IX, the NCAA commissioned a report on the state of women's college sports. It found more work needs to be done.
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  • Title IX passed in 1972, increasing opportunities for women in sports and other programs.
  • Women receive 40% or less of college athletics funding, according to the NCAA's study.
  • Division I athletic departments fund men's sports at twice the rate as women's.
  • Gender inequalities exist across 85 NCAA national championships, according to an independent review.

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation protecting against sex-based discrimination at institutions receiving federal funding. The 1972 passing of Title IX required schools to increase opportunities and funding for programs and activities for women.

In honor of 50 years of Title IX laws, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conducted a Title IX report on women's sports in college. The impacts of Title IX were assessed, highlighting increases in women's athletic participation and ongoing leadership and funding disparities for women.

Despite Increases, Women's Sports Participation Still Trails Men

Just before Title IX's passage, about 300,000 girls participated in high school sports — that's 1% of high school varsity athletes. In college, fewer than 32,000 women took part in college athletics before Title IX passed. Low participation rates highlighted the equally low funding for girls and women in sports.

In 1972, women received just 2% of college athletics' yearly budget. According to the NCAA's 2022 study, women now receive 40% or less of school athletics funding. Money is not the only indicator of Title IX's success rate, but it plays a role in establishing balance between men's and women's sports.

According to the 2022 report, participation by high school girls in sports has increased over 1000% since 1972. However, the number of girls participating in high school sports has yet to reach the number of boys who participated in high school sports back in 1972.

Women's participation in college athletics was 43.9% in 2020, the most recent year assessed in the study. This percentage shows an increase from 27.8% in 1982.

Racial diversity among women athletes increased 9 percentage points from 2001 to 2020. And 32% of women's sports participants identified as a racial minority, according to the NCAA study.

While participation in women's sports has increased, it does not yet equally reflect the overall student population.

Disparities in Women's Sports Persist

Funding disparities exist across all divisions in college athletics. The largest funding gap exists in Division I sports, where athletic departments spend twice as much money to fund men's programs as they do women's programs.

In 2021, an independent law firm reviewed the NCAA national basketball championships. The firm exposed disparities between men's and women's tournament funding, infrastructure, media contracts, and participation opportunities.

Of particular note in the identified funding disparities is the $35 million funding gap between the NCAA women's and men's basketball tournaments in 2019. Just as the reviewing law firm noted in its recommendations, a need for transparency is critical for understanding how athletic departments fund men's and women's sports.

The same independent firm also reviewed national championship tournaments in 84 other sports to assess overall issues of gender equality. The report found disparities across the expanse of championship tournaments, resulting in widespread gender inequity.

The need for more women in leadership positions continues to plague women's sports. Currently, women hold about 25% of NCAA director and head coaching positions. And just 5.8% of head coaching positions for men's teams are held by women, whereas 58.7% of head coaching positions for women's teams are held by men.

Representation of minority women in leadership positions is also insufficient. Just 16% of female head coaches and directors for women's teams identify with a minority population.

Title IX funding gaps persist and cause ripple effects across women's athletics. Even as more women participate in college athletics, the need for gender equality remains critical.