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In the Crossfire

Leveling the playing field

(CNN) -- In the 30 years since the enactment of Title IX -- a law barring sex discrimination in school sports and academics -- women's participation in sports has increased 403 percent at the college level and 837 percent in high school.

Yet, the battle of the sexes continues to be waged on the playing field. Some complain that men's sports were cut to make room for women. Is the women's increased participation in sports to blame for the loss of some of the men's teams -- or were those sports already on the way out? Were the men's sports to blame for keeping out the women to begin with?

Terry O'Neill of the National Organization of Women, and Jessica Gavora, author of "Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title 9" stepped into the "Crossfire" with hosts James Carville and Bob Novak to debate the accomplishments and unintended consequences of Title IX.

NOVAK: Terry O'Neill, I don't know if the National Organization for Women (is) aware of the law's unintended consequences, but to try to have some (leveling) of the playing field -- the so-called Title IX situation -- the government has wrecked men's sports: Over 400 college teams have been eliminated, and according to a GAO report, 170 wrestling programs have been eliminated ... 80 tennis teams, 70 gymnastics teams, 45 track teams. That isn't what you wanted, is it?

O'NEILL: No. It's absolutely not what we wanted. What we wanted was to expand sports opportunities for women, while also hopefully expanding opportunities for men as well. In fact, Title IX does not require that men's sports be reduced or eliminated in order to accommodate women's sports. It is true: Everybody has to operate on an athletic department budget. And when you budget something, you have to make choices, but those choices that we make don't mean that we always have to eliminate men's sports for women.

And what we are not permitted to do under Title IX is two things: First of all, we're not permitted to betray the promise that we made to our boys and girls across the country for equality. And we're not allowed to say to the girls, "Ooh, it's your fault these men's sports aren't (available) any more." That's not fair.

NOVAK: Well, listen. I'm allowed to say anything I want, because this is still a free country. The Title IX people haven't gagged me. And I want to quote Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. College wrestling is just a great sport. Women don't do college wrestling, by the way. And it's a great sport.

This is what he said: "The truth of the matter is that we're seeing the wholesale destruction of a traditional Olympic men's sports," that's including wrestling, "because of the application of this gender quota."

Let's talk about the real world, Terry. And when you have colleges desperately trying to find something to balance some kind of stylized figure skating or some kind of made-up sport -- so they can get the women's scholarships -- you're wrecking these sports that have been the basis of the Olympic movement. Haven't you?

O'NEILL: No, let's talk about the real world. Pre-Title IX, 1972, something like 8 percent of all college varsity athletes or high school varsity athletes were women. Now I think it was 2002 ... 2001 ... 40 percent of the varsity athletes in high school are women.

NOVAK: You're not addressing my question.

O'NEILL: If you build it, they will come. That's the real world. And there's nothing in Title IX that requires the destruction of these wrestling programs.

CARVILLE: In 1972, one in 27 girls in high school played sports. Today, the number's one in three. I'm happy. I want to spike the ball in the end zone; I'm so damn happy these girls are playing. What's the problem with that?

GAVORA: I am, too.

CARVILLE: Well, good.

GARVORA: First of all, we have to frame this debate honestly. This is not a debate about Title IX, about a grant of opportunity. This is about a perversion of Title IX, a quota system that was cooked up by bureaucrats and trial lawyers under the previous administration, in the past 10 years, that is eliminating men's sports. Like Bob said, 400 (college teams have been eliminated).

CARVILLE: How many men's soccer teams been added in the last 10 years?

GARVORA: I have no idea.

CARVILLE: One hundred forty three. So what you all do is liars' figures ... figures lie. You talk about all the men's sports that have been lost; you don't talk about the men's sports that have been added.




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