Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano reaffirmed yesterday that revenue-producing sports are covered by a federal law barring sex discrimination in federally aided education programs and activities.
Califano's statement came in response to a growing number of unquiries from colleges and sports organizations about the status of revenue-producing sports and last-minute attempts to have those sports exempted from the law, known as Title 9.
In his first major statement on Title 9 as it applies to athletics, Califano also directed key members of HEW's Office for Civil Rights to review additional steps that may be needed to help implement and clarify the law's application to intercollegiate athletics.
The timing of Califano's statement, issued in a press release, is significant in that virtually all colleges and high school systems in the country are legally required to be in compliance with Title 9 by July 25.
"Now that any doubts have been removed about the applicability of Title 9 to full range of intercollegiate athletics," Califano said, "I hope institutions of higher education and women's groups will move forward together with the important task of implementing this basic civil rights law."
Title 9, part of a 1972 omnibus education bill, prohibits sex discrimination "under any education program or activity receiving federal financing assistance" HEW drafted regulations for applying the law and is in charge of enforcing it.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which governs men's intercollegiate sports, athletic directors and numerous coaches lobbied extensively against the inclusion of sports - and revenue-producing sports in particular - under the Title 9 umbrella.
If some of the money had to be diverted to women's sports programs, and away from such money-makers as football and basketball, they said, athletic programs would be severely weakened.
There were a number of unsuccessful attempts in the Senate and House to exempt revenue-producing sports and sports in general from Title 9 before the HEW regulations went into effect in July 1975.
Colleges and high school systems were given a three-year adjustment period, although there have been indications some schools considered it a waiting period.
With three months left now until full compliance is required, there again were efforts by some colleges and sports organizations to win an exception for athletics.
HEW general counsel Peter Libassi, on whose legal opinion Califano based his statement yesterday, said. "There has been a continous hope that somehow or other requirements would be relaxed or amended." But, legislative history shows Congress intended to have Title 9 cover sports, Libassi said.
Califano also asked Libassi, David S. Tatel, director of the office of civil rights, and Cynthia Brown, deputy director for compliance and enforcement, to provide "practical guidance and technical assistance" to colleges, women's groups and other interested parties on Title 9.
Califano said the review should include the experiences of colleges in achieving compliance, of the progress made in expanding athletic opportunity for women, of difficulties encountered and a determination if further policies are nexessary.