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My question for the week would seem laughable if not just insane not that long ago. However, action by the United States House of Representatives may very well destroy the gains that girls' sporting programs have gathered since the 1970s.

Things didn't used to be so great for female athletes in this country. The sporting program in my high school years of 1967-1971 in Missouri saw the boys participating in football, basketball, track, wrestling, golf and tennis. The girls had tennis and an intramural sports program. I imagine 99% of the athletic budget went to the boys.

My track coach was the first to change attitudes, including girls track with my sister being on the very first team. When Title IX came along, then things began to even and provide a more equal footing for all students.

The first big Title IX test came in Harrison, where the boys program was taking about 75% of all tax dollars committed to its sports programs. I knew some parents of the track girls who petitioned the high school for a better funded program for the girls.

The athletic director, football coach at Harrison at the time was incensed that mere parents would question his authority or decisions. He had the belief that the most important sport was football and that would by necessity take most of their money. He would not even consider allowing anyone to propose a better way.

The parents went to court and there were plenty of lawyers salivating for the chance to take on the Harrison athletic department. To make a long story short, when the case finally went before a judge, the judge quickly ruled that half of the money would to go to the girls. When the athletic director protested because of the expense of football, the judge was said to remark: "You should have worked out a compromise with the parents. You didn't, therefore we will split the budget 50/50." In addition, the school would be subject to a athletic audit every five years forever.

There were some rough spots in getting the playing field level for girls and boys over time but gradually over the years, I believe we have come to a good place where anyone attending public school will have the same opportunity.

In the last two weeks, the U.S. House passed the "Equality" Act allowing boys to compete in girls sports. All they have to do is "identify" as a girl to be allowed to compete against girls. There were 228 Democrats and eight Republicans in favor of the bill. An amendment was introduced to the Equality Act to preserve Title IX but Democrats rejected it.

Congress passed the Title IX law to provide equal opportunities for women in sports and education. This new law won't be signed by the president in the White House so it won't be a threat until after 2020 at the earliest.

What could happen? What has already happened.

In Connecticut, two boys who weren't much good as boy track athletes decided to consider themselves as girls. While ranked 120th and 195th in the state in the sprints as boys, they became the new girls state champions, blowing away state records in the process. To say that Connecticut girls are demoralized would be an understatement. I have read quite a few of those girls' perspectives on the situation.

When I was running the 400 meter in 1971, my 50.2 time was ranked fairly high in Missouri, second in 4A. I was surprised to learn that year that the best woman on earth was slower than I was. I would not rank among the best 5,000 men in America in 1971 but I could beat every woman on earth.

Earlier this spring, a man who was a decent weightlifter decided to try out competing as a woman. Of course, he broke world records competing as a woman. Luckily, the world Powerlifting Federation, not so much steeped in politics, checked out this athlete and determined that she was a he, erasing the results as well as the records.

Mental illness used to be a problem that professionals would try to mitigate or otherwise help correct. Since the intrusion of political considerations, that is out the window. Anyone who identifies as a boy who is a girl or who identifies as a girl but is a boy has a problem. Applauding it or denigrating it won't do anyone any good.

There are people in mental institutions who identify as dogs or other animals. Will humans be allowed into dog shows at some point as contestants?

Athletics is divided up into classifications and gender to give all students as fair a chance as possible to earn success. Over the years, programs have really gotten to a good place, but that could all be gone due to political considerations in the not too distant future.

I would have said years earlier that there was no way that this could happen in America. Now -- I am not too sure.

•••

Sports Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times of Northeast Benton County. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through the Times at prtnews@nwadg.com.

Sports on 06/05/2019

Print Headline: Are Girls Sports On The Way Out?

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