By Ken Reed
Birch Bayh, principal architect of the landmark Title IX legislation that barred sex discrimination in education and sports, died this week at the age of 91.
Bayh, a U.S. senator from Indiana from 1963 to 1981, spent a good party of his life fighting for equal rights for all Americans. Title IX, in particular, has had a tremendously positive impact on the worlds of education and sports in the United States.
Bayh drafted the language for Title IX, which requires equal opportunities for girls and women in schools and colleges. The legislation, while still not fully implemented and enforced, has greatly expanded education and sports opportunities for females.
When Title IX became law in 1972, fewer than 10 percent of all medical and law degrees went to women. Today more than 50 percent of all college bachelor’s and graduate degrees are earned by women. Furthermore, only one in 27 high school girls played sports in 1972. Today, more than 3 million high school girls — one in two — play sports.
“There was a soccer field I used to jog around,” said Bayh in 2002.
“One day, all of a sudden, I realized that half of the players were little girls and half of them were little boys. I realized then that that was, in part, because of Title IX.”
Bayh continued to fight for full implementation and enforcement of Title IX long after he left the Senate. Tennis great and long-time equal rights advocate, Billie Jean King, called Bayh “one of the most important Americans of the 20th century.”
“You simply cannot look at the evolution of equality in our nation without acknowledging the contributions and the commitment Senator Bayh made to securing equal rights and opportunities for every American,” said King in a statement following Bayh’s death.
Fans of equal rights for all Americans have long praised Bayh.
“Had (Title IX) not passed, the options and opportunities for women in this country and the world would be vastly different,” said North Carolina State athletic director, Debbie Yow.
Job well done Mr. Bayh. Go in peace.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report