50 Years of Title IX

- —Meghan Gunn

A look at the evolution and impact of this landmark legislatio­n since its passage in 1972, plus key milestones achieved by women athletes whose careers were made possible by it.

June 23, 1972

Title IX, an update to civil rights law that extends an existing ban on sex discrimina­tion to education, is signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

September 1973

Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in an exhibition match dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes.” Plus: The U.S. Open becomes the first major tournament to award equal prize money for men and women champions after King threatens to boycott over pay disparity.

November 1973

A New Jersey court rules girls must be allowed to play Little League baseball. 538,000 girls play in youth leagues in 2021.


Ann Meyers Drysdale becomes the first female recipient of a full fouryear athletics scholarshi­p in any sport, signing onto UCLA’S basketball team. There, she is the first player in Division I history to record a quadruple-double—a man wouldn’t complete the feat until 2007.


The NCAA files a lawsuit challengin­g the legality of Title IX, claiming that no athletics programs receive direct federal funding. The lawsuit is dismissed in 1978.

March 1980

The first NCAA coed championsh­ip takes place—in rifle shooting. Women regularly earn the sport’s top rankings; a woman has been the top scorer since 2019.

September 1980

The first use of Title IX in a sexual misconduct case, Alexander v. Yale establishe­s the precedent that sexual harrassmen­t is a form of discrimina­tion and therefore illegal. That paved the way for future lawsuits like the 2016 case against USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.


For the first time, the NCAA offers championsh­ips for women’s athletics and becomes the official governing body of women’s sports.


In a major setback for Title IX, the Supreme Court rules in Grove

City College v. Bell that the law only applies at schools that receive direct federal funding. This excludes most athletic programs, so newly formed women’s teams see huge cuts. The decision is reversed in 1988.


All new Olympic sports are required to have women’s competitio­ns.

November 1991

FIFA hosts the first Women’s World Cup in China, which the United States team wins.

February 1992

The Supreme Court rules that plaintiffs may sue for monetary damages under Title IX in Franklin v. Gwinnett County

Public Schools. The first monetary award is granted a year later to Howard basketball coach Sanya Tyler for $2.4 million (later reduced to ($1.1 million).

March 1992

A major NCAA study reveals ongoing dramatic discrepanc­ies in funding for women’s college sports: While female students make up 55 percent of undergradu­ates, men receive 70 percent of scholarshi­p money, 77 percent of operating budgets and 83 percent of recruiting funds.


Congress passes the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, mandating annual reports from coed athletic institutio­ns.


The WNBA profession­al basketball league is formed.

February 2002

American sprinter and long jumperturn­ed-bobsledder Vonetta Flowers becomes the first Black athlete (from any country) to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Flowers was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

October 2002

Title IX is renamed the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunit­y in Education Act,” in honor of its major author.


An essay by Venus Williams published in The Times of London—“wimbledon has sent me a message: I’m only a secondclas­s champion”—is instrument­al in winning equal prize money for men and women athletes playing the tournament the following year.


The University of Connecticu­t women’s basketball team goes two straight seasons without a loss, winning 90 consecutiv­e games and overturnin­g the men’s league record of 88 straight wins held by UCLA. The Huskies have won a record 11 NCAA national championsh­ips.

April 2012

Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt retires after garnering 1,098 wins, a record for any NCAA men’s or women’s basketball coach.

July-august 2012

The U.S. sends more women than men to the Summer Games in London for the first time in Olympic history.


Bronze medalist fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympic Games.

March 6, 2017

After more than 100 women—including Olympians Aly Raisman and Simone Biles—come forward about sexual abuse by a former USA Gymnastics doctor, Congress proposes a bill to create Safesport, an independen­t organizati­on to address sexual misconduct. It passes in 2018.

March 15, 2017

The No. 1 world-ranked U.S. women’s hockey team boycotts the world championsh­ip seeking equal resources and support with the U.S. men’s team. Two weeks later, the league agrees to a four-year contract including higher compensati­on and performanc­e bonuses.


Kim Ng becomes the first female general manager of a men’s profession­al team (baseball’s Miami Marlins) in the history of North American sports.


In the 2020–21 academic year, 215,486 women played college sports, up from 29,977 in 1971–72.

January 2021

Referee Sarah Thomas, the first full-time female official in NFL history, becomes the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

February 2022

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) reaches a historic settlement for $24 million and agrees to equal pay for women and men going forward after five members filed a wage discrimina­tion complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunit­y Commission.

March 2022

Lia Thomas becomes the first openly transgende­r athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championsh­ip.


According to a 2022 survey by Pew Research, 63 percent of people say Title IX has had a positive impact on gender equality—but 37 percent think it still hasn’t done enough to increase athletic opportunit­ies for women and girls.

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