To the outside world in the early 1990s, the University of Texas had one of the nation's most successful and respected women's athletic programs. To women's athletic director Donna Lopiano, there also was substantial doubt the university was meeting its legal obligation to female athletes.

Like every other federally funded school in the country, Texas was required to provide equal opportunities for men and women athletes. Lopiano felt the university wasn't coming close. During the 1991-92 school year, its football team had more athletes than did the entire women's program.

Unable to effect all the changes she wanted despite her position in the department, Lopiano gave the phone number of an Austin-based lawyer to the coach of the university's women's rowing club when he sought in early 1992 to upgrade the club to varsity status and she had to tell him no money was available for such a move.

Lopiano left the university in March 1992, to direct a national, nonprofit group that promotes women in sports. Three months later, seven female athletes at Texas -- organized by the rowing club coach and represented by the lawyer to whom Lopiano referred him -- sued the university in U.S. District Court. They charged the university with violating the federal anti-discrimination law known as Title IX, enacted 25 years ago last month.

In July 1993, the university agreed to settle, beginning a period of progress and pain. This fall, the University of Texas finally will meet the settlement's terms -- albeit a year late -- by devoting more than 44 percent of its varsity athletic roster spots to women and giving women more than 42 percent of its athletic scholarship money.

Texas has added three women's varsity teams and reduced the roster sizes of its men's varsity teams without eliminating any of them. It also has undertaken construction of two small stadiums for women's sports, one of which will also be used for track and field. Altogether, the changes have cost the university more than $6 million.

University officials take pride in their effort, which indicates that even an enormous state university with a successful football program can meet the law's requirements. But they also say progress has come with a price. Texas has withstood dissension between the men's and women's athletic departments. Athletic administrators have made decisions they believe have jeopardized Texas's competitive advantage. Some have questioned the loyalty of Lopiano, the most influential woman in the university's athletic history. The University of Texas's experience illustrates not only the complexities of trying to comply with Title IX, but also the range of emotions the law still engenders 25 years after its passage.

"This has been the right thing to do -- at this point, nobody would argue that," said Jody Conradt, who replaced Lopiano as Texas's women's athletic director while remaining the school's women's basketball coach. "But the timetable we had to do it in stretched and strained our budget to the limit. . . . The department as a whole has suffered. . . . A slower timetable would have been better, but if it had been left to us, we probably would not have" made the changes required by the court settlement.

With the Supreme Court's refusal in April to hear Brown University's appeal of an unfavorable ruling in a Title IX suit in which several women protested the university's cuts of the women's varsity gymnastics and volleyball programs, many schools likely will be forced onto the road to compliance that the University of Texas is completing. Janet Justis, the NCAA's director of education outreach, estimated that only 20 percent of the nation's colleges and universities comply with Title IX.

Lopiano, now executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said recently she saw no conflict in giving the rowing club coach the lawyer's telephone number while employed by the university.

"I never saw the incongruence of it," she said. "I loved Texas. {But} you were living a schizophrenic position as a women's athletic director. . . . I have never in my life not encouraged people to do the right thing. I have never not been straight with people about what's wrong."

During Lopiano's tenure at Texas, her name was golden. The Ladies Home Journal listed her among America's 100 most important women in 1988.

Texas hired Lopiano in 1975, the year Title IX was implemented and three years after it became law. Lopiano and Conradt, named the associate women's athletic director and women's basketball coach in 1976, set a goal of making each of its women's varsity teams among the top 10 in the nation.

By the time Lopiano left Texas after 17 years, the Longhorns had won 18 national championships in six women's varsity sports.

When the women's physical education program gained varsity status in 1975, Lopiano's first budget was about $58,000 for nine sports; at the time, the men's athletic department had a budget of $2.2 million. The women's budget more than doubled after some annual increases, but it never came close to the men's budget during Lopiano's tenure. In 1991-92, the women's budget was $4.4 million; the men's, $15.6 million.

"Every year there was progress," Lopiano said. "Texas was proud of the progress, and I was proud of the progress, too. But was it in compliance with Title IX? No. Did I ever think it was enough? Of course not."

Lopiano said she was aware of inequities throughout her career at Texas. The male athletes ate at the Longhorn Dining Hall for years before it was opened to female athletes in the 1980s. According to court documents, the university spent $160,000 to refurbish the football coaches' offices for the arrival of new coach John Mackovic in 1992 at about the time the urinals finally were removed from the women's locker rooms.

During her last two years at Texas, Lopiano said, she tried to arrange plaintiffs for a Title IX suit against all of the schools in the Southwest Conference, including Texas. (The SWC disbanded in 1996 after Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor joined the former Big Eight Conference schools to form the Big 12 Conference.) Lopiano said she kept her efforts secret from her superiors to avoid potential retribution.

By the time she left Texas in March 1992, Lopiano said, she had found four tenured faculty members at four universities -- including Texas -- willing to support female athletes in what could have been a landmark class-action lawsuit.

"If there was ever a chance to sue all the Southwest Conference schools at once, they would love to be involved," said Lopiano, who declined to name the faculty members. "And, at all those schools, the faculty members knew kids who would be willing to participate. I imagined that I would have eventually had all nine institutions, but not with any extraordinary effort."

Lopiano left the university before her prospective suit could materialize, but another suit went forward.

In early 1992, Texas men's and women's rowing club coach Jeff Gardner decided to find out how rowing could become a varsity sport. At Texas, there are more than 40 clubs, which are partially funded by the university through student fees. Varsity programs are fully funded, including budgets for athletic scholarships, recruiting, etc. During a meeting in the first week of March, Lopiano explained to Gardner that requests over the years for expansion of the university's varsity sports programs -- men's and women's -- had been denied for financial reasons. Lopiano gave Gardner a Title IX compliance manual from the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, the agency that oversees the law.

She also gave him the telephone number for an Austin-based lawyer named Diane Henson.

Henson had just attended a convention about equality for women's athletics, and while at the event, had become interested in leading a Title IX suit against Texas. On March 12, she met with Gardner and told him his options. He could write angry letters to the university. He could file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, which would review the complaint and perhaps investigate Texas's program. Or, he could help find female athletes willing to file a lawsuit.

Nothing, Henson told Gardner, would make a bigger statement than a lawsuit. Henson, whose office five minutes from the university's campus provides a view of 75,512-seat Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, said she thought "if we could show the University of Texas was not in compliance, then other schools would fall like dominoes." And Henson assured Gardner she would not seek attorney's fees unless the plaintiffs won, in which case she would seek the money from the university. By the time the suit was filed on July 1, Lopiano had been at the Women's Sports Foundation three months. As she was preparing for her departure in mid-March, Lopiano asked Conradt to succeed her. Because Lopiano's tenure had been such a smooth one -- annual budget meetings excepted -- Conradt thought it would be no problem doing both jobs. And, the way Conradt saw it, she was taking over a program that offered so much to female athletes.

A native of Goldthwaite, Tex., a town of fewer than 2,000 people about 125 miles southwest of Dallas, Conradt graduated from Baylor in 1963 after starring in basketball there. She did not receive any scholarship money because there were no women's scholarships at Baylor at the time.

From 1973 to '76, she served as the women's athletic director at the University of Texas-Arlington. At the time, the school's women's varsity teams had one set of uniforms for softball, volleyball and basketball. The only thing that changed from season to season was the socks: stirrups for softball, low socks for volleyball, high socks for basketball.

When the lawsuit against the University of Texas-Austin was filed on July 1, 1992 -- just three months into her new job -- Conradt was astonished. To her, Texas had the best women's varsity sports program in the country. She couldn't understand how it could be in violation of federal law. At the time, she said, she was not well versed in the particulars of Title IX -- the guidelines for compliance that were established by the Office for Civil Rights in its 1979 interpretation of the law. "At that point," Conradt said, "those issues had not been widely discussed."

As a result, Conradt said, she and other university officials took the suit personally.

"I felt like we had been on the cutting edge," she said. "I felt like I had been one of the more enlightened people at providing opportunities for women. I had spent most of my life doing this -- and now we were being sued?"

Even today many college athletic directors say they struggle with Title IX's details. Under the 1979 interpretation of the law, there are three basic areas under which a school can be cited in a Title IX complaint -- and all are at least partially subjective: Participation. Unless there is an overriding reason, the percentages of varsity roster spots available to men and women must be substantially the same as the percentages of men and women in the school's full-time undergraduate student body. The term "substantially" never has been precisely defined.

If a university fails to satisfy the participation requirement, either of two other conditions must exist: A recent history of adding sports for the underrepresented gender (almost always women), or evidence of a full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of its students. Scholarships. A school must give its male and female varsity athletes a percentage of athletic scholarship dollars that is substantially the same as the percentages of men and women in the school's varsity athletic program. Inequity in other areas such as equipment, practice times or the number and quality of coaches.

The suit against the University of Texas was the first to focus on participation, an area now frequently cited in Title IX athletic complaints. When the suit was filed, women comprised 47 percent of the university's students and 24 percent of its varsity athletes.

Soon after meeting with the attorney Henson, Gardner discussed the prospective suit with his rowers. After several weeks of meetings and phone calls, Gardner had found seven women willing to become part of the legal action. There were three members of the women's rowing club, Beth Wyatt, Jessica Mortenson and Kristan Staudenmayer; a member of the women's soccer club, Rachel Sanders; and three members of the women's gymnastics club, Jennifer Rentschler, Jessica Green and Suzanne Vossman McClish. Texas did not have a women's softball club, but softball was the most popular intramural sport for women in 1991-92, with nearly 1,800 participants, including Staudenmayer. So Staudenmayer joined the effort as a softball player rather than a rower.

In early May, the seven women and Gardner met with Henson for the first time in her 21st-floor office with the stadium view.

Henson predicted victory. She told the plaintiffs the university clearly did not meet Title IX's participation standards with 47 percent female students yet only 24 percent female varsity athletes. Also, Henson pointed out, Texas had no history of expansion of women's sports. The only change in the university's varsity sports menu since 1980-81 had been the women's gymnastics team's elimination.

And Henson was certain the university could not successfully claim it was accommodating the interests and abilities of its female students when there were seven plaintiffs -- most of whom had demonstrated they had as much ability as they had interest. For example, the women's gymnastics club had finished second at the national club championships for the previous two seasons.

"We knew the law was on our side," Rentschler, one of the gymnasts, said. "It was so blatant."

What the women did not have on their side was popular opinion within the Texas athletic program. Mackovic, who became the university's football coach in December 1991, emphasized that relations between the men's and women's athletic departments have improved, but he said he harbors questions about the actions of women's athletic department officials before the suit was filed. The questions, suspicion and blame swirling through Texas's athletic departments hit Conradt hard. "What's not worth it is having your loyalty questioned, all the backlash from people who support the men's program," said Conradt, who is one of the most successful coaches in women's college basketball history with a 697-198 record in 27 seasons.

Resolving the suit but not the rift, university officials settled with the plaintiffs on July 16, 1993. The settlement was reached several days after a hearing on the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment -- a request that the judge decide the case in their favor based on the case's undisputed facts. "We were committed to our intercollegiate athletic program and the whole philosophy of equity," said Edwin Sharpe, the university vice president who oversees the men's and women's athletic programs. "That was the heart of it. In the spirit of gender equity, we needed to go further."

The agreement required the university to create varsity teams in women's soccer and softball. Without being specific about the creation of other women's teams, it also said women had to comprise 44 percent of the university's varsity athletes by the 1995-96 academic year and receive 42 percent of the university's athletic scholarship money by 1997-98.

University officials did not meet the participation deadline. Under the settlement's terms, that meant they had to add a third women's sport. They decided to add women's rowing this fall. Although women's gymnasts were among the plaintiffs, their sport has not been given varsity status because gymnastics teams have relatively small rosters, and university officials believed gymnastics was less popular than softball and soccer among colleges and high schools in the state of Texas.

In fall 1993, the women's varsity soccer team began playing -- and Rachel Sanders, then a senior, became the only plaintiff to directly benefit from the suit. The varsity softball team debuted two years later, after Kristan Staudenmayer graduated.

Meanwhile, construction had begun on two stadiums -- a $4.5 million facility for softball, and a $22 million facility for soccer and track and field, a sport in which Texas fields men's and women's varsity teams.

At many colleges and universities, such a sudden and broad expansion of the women's varsity program can be difficult to finance without reductions in the men's program. The difficulty arises from participation requirements, financial constraints and football's status as an untouchable in many athletic departments. There is no women's equivalent for football, a sport in which large schools routinely have 80 to 120 players and the largest schools can -- and for competitive reasons, usually do -- have 85 players receiving athletic scholarships.

Thus, to meet Title IX's participation and scholarship requirements, many schools choose simultaneously to expand opportunities for women and decrease opportunities for men. University of Texas officials say that, in addition to the facility costs, each of their three new women's varsity teams will require an average of $500,000 a year to cover coaches' salaries, scholarships, equipment, travel, recruiting and so on. Yet Texas did not cut any of its men's teams to help finance its expansion.

That's largely because Texas is in the unusual position of having an enormously profitable football team. A recent study by the NCAA showed that Texas's football team produced $5 million in revenue in 1995-96. Athletic departments with the largest football programs in the nation -- those in Division I-A, which includes Texas -- made an average of $2.8 million from football during the 1995-96 school year, according to statistics compiled by the NCAA.

Football helped pay for the addition of the new women's sports, but its huge roster (about 120 annually) presented a numbers problem. Because of football, with no changes in the men's program, women still would have comprised less than the required 44 percent of the university's varsity athletes.

As a result, the university reduced -- and effectively capped -- the roster sizes of its men's varsity teams by telling coaches to reduce the numbers of nonscholarship athletes. Altogether, more than 40 places for nonscholarship male athletes have been eliminated.

The settlement has had a unwelcome side effect on a school that had always prided itself on its commitment to winning. Coaches now must count athletes as closely as victories. For example, baseball coach Augie Garrido said this past season he was not allowed to have more than 38 players on the team, which carried as many as 50 or more in the past.

Not every school is watching its numbers as closely as Texas. A study released by the NCAA this spring showed that while 53 percent of the students at the organization's Division I -- or largest-scale -- schools are female, women comprise 37 percent of the varsity athletes (up from 31 percent in 1991-92) and receive 38 percent of the scholarship money (also up from 31 percent in 1991-92). Those statistics helped prompt the National Women's Law Center to file Title IX complaints with the Office for Civil Rights in June against 25 colleges and universities across the country.

Texas women's athletic director Conradt is troubled by the slow pace of compliance nationwide as well as its impact on her school.

"I'm saying, Okay, we have to have a different approach,' " Conradt said. "We're telling a coach, Don't worry about winning. Just worry about how many people you have on the squad.' . . . I think we have lost our competitive advantage.

"In my own mind, I ask: How can some of the institutions we are competing against be in compliance?' I don't see them going through the same process we are.

"I'd like for everybody to have one of these pieces of paper," she said, tapping a stapled packet -- the terms of the settlement. "Right now we are having to do things that other schools aren't having to do. I'm mad about that." CAPTION: UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ATHLETICS: THEN AND NOW This chart highlights the progress the University of Texas's athletic program has made in providing opportunities for women since 1991-92, when a sexual discrimination suit was filed by seven female students at Texas. Numbers from 1974-75, the first year of women's varsity sports at Texas, are included for comparison.

By this fall, the university is expected to reach the terms of the 1993 settlement of the lawsuit and comply with Title IX, the law enacted 25 years ago to prevent sex discrimination at federally funded institutions. Among other things, Title IX requires substantially the same proportion of women's to men's varsity roster spots as women to men in the undergraduate student body. The Big Picture 1974-75

Men

Women Enrollment

58%

42% Varsity athlete pct.

74%

26% Budget

$2.2 million

$57,760 Scholarship money

$318,500

$20,000+ Scholarship pct.

94%

6% 1991-92

Men

Women Enrollment

53%

47% Varsity athlete pct.

76%

24% Budget

$15.6 million

$4.4 million Scholarship money

$1.4 million

$551,498 Scholarship pct.

70%

30% 1997-98 PROJECTION

Men

Women Enrollment

52%

48% Varsity athlete pct.

53%

47% Budget

$22 million*

$7.8 million Scholarship money

$1.5 million

$1.2 million Scholarship pct.

56%

44% Breakdown of Participants 1974-75

Men

Women Football

115 Baseball

36 Basketball

16

15 Golf

17

5 Swimming/diving

32

22 Tennis

10

15 Track & field**

44

20 Volleyball

5 Gymnastics

15 Soccer Softball Rowing Total

270

97 1991-92

Men

Women Football

142 Baseball

46 Basketball

15

16 Golf

13

10 Swimming/diving

41

27 Tennis

10

8 Track & field**

57

26 Volleyball

13 Gymnastics Soccer Softball Rowing Total

324

100 1997-98 PROJECTION

Men

Women Football

118 Baseball

36 Basketball

15

21 Golf

12

10 Swimming/diving

34

37 Tennis

9

13 Track & field**

45

37 Volleyball

16 Gymnastics Soccer

24 Softball

24 Rowing

55 Total

269

237 NOTE: All figures for 1974-75 are estimates provided by the University of Texas in response to request from plaintiffs during discovery phase of the lawsuit. * The men's budget includes operational expenses for most varsity facilities that are also used by women's teams; it includes the debt service and operations expenses on buildings under construction for softball and track and field; it also includes expenses for the recently combined men's and women's development/fund-raising operations and the combined public and media relations offices. **Track & field includes indoor track, outdoor track and cross-country. CAPTION: WHAT IS TITLE IX?

Title IX is one section of the Education Amendments of 1972. Though it is commonly associated with college athletic programs, it in fact is a wide-ranging sex discrimination law that also applies to high schools and elementary schools. It states:

"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."

That broadly worded statute has been more sharply defined as it applies to federally funded athletic programs over the years, through policy interpretations and guides issued by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Office for Civil Rights, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, applications of the law by OCR investigators, and court cases. Basically, there are three areas in which a collegiate athletic program's adherence to Title IX can be challenged: PARTICIPATION Unless there is an overriding reason, the percentages of varsity men's and women's roster spots must be substantially the same as the percentages of men and women in the school's undergraduate, full-time student body. The term "substantially" never has been precisely defined. Office of Civil Rights officials encourage athletic administrators to call the agency if they are uncertain about whether they are complying with Title IX. If an institution cannot meet the proportionality standard, it is in violation of the law -- unless either of two other conditions exist: 1. The school has a recent history of adding sports for the underrepresented gender (almost always women). 2. The school can prove it is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of its students. Some schools annually survey freshman about their athletic interests, but the existence of a club in a particular sport not available on a varsity level could indicate unmet interests and abilities. SCHOLARSHIPS A school must give its male and female varsity athletes a percentage of its athletic scholarship dollars that is substantially the same as the percentages of men and women in the school's varsity athletic program. EQUIVALENCE Of all other program areas such as equipment, practice times, coaching, publicity and travel schedules. SIGNIFICANT DATES IN TITLE IX'S HISTORY June 23, 1972: Title IX enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. May 20, 1974: Sen. John Tower (R-Tex.) introduces an amendment to Title IX that would have exempted revenue-producing college sports, such as football, from the law. The proposal is defeated. July 21, 1975: The Title IX regulation went into effect that tied the law specifically to collegiate athletic programs. Dec. 11, 1979: The Health, Education and Welfare Department's Office of Civil Rights issues policy interpretation of Title IX, setting out the three areas under which a program's adherence to Title IX can be challenged. Feb. 28, 1984: In Grove City College v. Bell, the Supreme Court narrows the scope of Title IX by ruling that it applies only to educational programs that receive direct federal funding, which most athletic programs do not. This ruling takes away the jurisdiction of the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights in enforcing Title IX. March 22, 1988: Congress overrides President Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which effectively wipes out the Supreme Court's ruling in the Grove City case and restores OCR's jurisdiction over Title IX enforcement -- ending a four-year period of inaction. April 2, 1990: Title IX Athletics Investigator's Manual issued by the Department of Education. States that gender inequity in any of the three areas of the policy interpretation can represent a Title IX offense. Feb. 2, 1992: In Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Supreme Court rules that plaintiffs filing Title IX lawsuits are entitled to punitive damages when intentional action to prevent Title IX compliance is established. Sept. 28, 1992: In Cook v. Colgate University, a U.S. district court rejects Colgate's defense that it lacked the funds to comply with Title IX. July 16, 1993: Out-of-court settlement reached in Title IX class-action suit against the University of Texas. April 21, 1997: In Cohen v. Brown University, the Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal of a ruling that rejected Brown's defense that it was satisfactorily accommodating female athletes by allocating opportunities based on the ratio of interested women to the ratio of interested men. Brown argued that fewer women than men were interested in intercollegiate sports. June 2, 1997: The National Women's Law Center files Title IX complaints with the Education Department against 25 colleges and universities. CAPTION: Former Texas women's athletic director Donna Lopiano helped set in motion a movement toward equality in men's and women's athletics at the school. CAPTION: Texas women's athletic director Jody Conradt on the Title IX settlement: "I felt like we had been on the cutting edge." CAPTION: Attorney Diane Henson, who sued Texas under Title IX provisions, stands at construction site of university's new softball stadium.