The words to Title IX state: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

While most would have to keep making reference to the sentence if trying to repeat it, Sue Estler knows it word for word.

Estler is Associate Professor Emirita of higher education at the University of Maine and served 11 years as the Director of Equal Opportunity and Title Coordinator. On May 18, in the Rockland Public Library’s Community Room, she shared her knowledge of the history of Title IX, as well as her thoughts in regards to it.

The talk, open to anyone, was hosted by the Midcoast branch of the American Association of University Women.

“Sports is the late comer to gender equality,” Estler said in her opening. Also adding that during the initial proceedings for Title IX, there was little discussion of sports. After it passed in 1972, Estler said that athletics was the area with most resistance, thus the reason so many associate the title to athletics.

In the 1970s, a few years after the initial law was passed, athletics were added to Title IX. Since then, there have been many legal battles as people work to uphold the gender equality it states as law.

Estler spoke of the 1984 case of Grove City College versus Bell. A key case in the history of Title IX, it involved the college arguing that it did not need to comply with the rules of Title IX as the school was not federally funded. Despite having students enrolled in the school who were receiving federal grants, the court still ruled the school did not have to comply with Title IX, in this instance.

“The momentum had already started,” Estler said. “I don’t think that Grove City took away from that momentum.”

Once the Civil Rights Restoration Act was passed and put into action in 1988, athletics were again brought to the forefront. The Women’s Law Center took action against 25 universities nationally.

A key court case in the history of Title IX is Cohen versus Brown University. In the midst of financial difficulty, the university cut many teams and argued strongly that it cut equally both men’s and women’s teams. Estler said she thinks that the cuts were disproportionate.

Many other colleges at the time looked to the Brown case knowing that if Brown did not prevail, they were in trouble. In November 1996, the court ruled against Brown.

Title IX did not solely affect colleges and universities in other states. Estler remembers an issue that was brought up in Orono at the University of Maine. “The University of Maine’s women’s ice hockey team couldn’t get any attention when they wanted to go varsity,” Estler said.

The university stated it did not have the money to support the team, and after talks of a lawsuit under the Title IX law, the course the university was heading in, changed.

“Title IX has not been all good for women in sports,” Estler said. In 1972, 90 percent of the coaches for women’s sports were women. Statistics show that in 2008, that number was only 43 percent. “The next big hurdle is women coaching men’s sports.”

Estler said she always tells her classes that Title IX and the Civil Rights act do not say, ‘Thou shalt not discriminate against women,” but states people should not discriminate against either sex.

Although Title IX is a law protecting equality for both genders, it has helped women in sports clear many hurdles that were in place previous to the passing of the law. Before the enactment, studies show that only 1-in-27 women played high school sports and that female athletes received only two percent of the overall athletic budget.

Today, despite moving closer to equality in sports, Estler said there still are colleges that are not complying with the law. A study showed that male athletes receive $136 million more than female athletes in college athletic scholarships at National Collegiate Athletic Association-member institutions and that women in Division I colleges still only receive 32 percent of athletic recruiting dollars and 37 percent of the total money spent on athletics.

Despite attempts from opponents to push the law off-track, the law still maintains the struggle to move forward.

Other areas that Title IX includes, along with athletics, are access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology.

VillageSoup Sports Assistant Holly Vanorse can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at hvanorse@villagesoup.com.