Want an example of how far women have come in America?
On college varsity teams, there are now five times as many women as there were in 1972. Why? Because a law was passed in 1972 called Title IX, stating that any school that receives federal funds cannot discriminate in any area based on gender.
So what's the problem? As 60 Minutes first reported last winter, some male athletes on college campuses say they're losing out to women by the way Title IX is being enforced.
That's why a group of college coaches filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming sexual discrimination against men. Correspondent Bob Simon reports.
These are the daughters of the Title IX revolution: Young women running and swimming their way through college, often with the help of athletic scholarships.
Like generations of male athletes before them, many have turned pro, like the members of the U.S. women's soccer team, which won the World Cup in 1999.
“ We were Title IX babies,” says Julie Foudy, captain of that winning World Cup team. Title IX helped Foudy get a scholarship, which she says is the reason that she is a professional athlete today. “I think it all, it all trails back to Title IX, for sure.”
But while women have been making giant strides, hundreds of men's teams have been eliminated -- and the men say that also trails back to Title IX.
Here's what happened. The government told the schools that the only surefire way to abide by Title IX was to achieve what's called proportionality.
That means that if half the student body is female, half the athletes should be as well. So if a college has too many male athletes, it can do one of two things. It can either add more women's teams – which often require a lot of money. Or cut back on the number of men.
Colleges have cut hundreds of wrestling teams, along with dozens of men's gymnastics, tennis and track and field teams. Men's swimming is also taking a bath. Remember Olympic gold medallist Greg Louganis? He polished his art on the University of Miami's championship swimming and diving team. That team no longer exists.
“I don't think that the American public understands what's going on in colleges. I don't think they understand that they're applying the quota law to sports in college,” says Leo Kocher, a wrestling coach and an architect of the lawsuit.
These wrestlers and gymnasts all had their teams eliminated: Jason Lewis and Nate Dotson were gymnasts at Michigan State, Brock Warder used to wrestle at Marquette University, and Colin Robertson was on the wrestling team at Utah's Brigham Young.
“Instead of adding a new women's sport, they dropped ours,” says Warder.
“Twenty-three years ago, there was 107 men's gymnastic teams in this nation,” says Lewis. Now there are 20 teams left.
He says the number of men’s teams are dwindling because colleges are dropping what are called the minor men's sports, the ones that don't draw crowds or make money, and investing more and more in just one sport - football.
However, women who defend Title IX claim that if colleges only spent a little less on football, they could have all the wrestlers they wanted.
“When they do cut a men's team, I want them to be honest and straight with why they're cutting that team. And they're not cutting that team because of Title IX. They're cutting that team because it is a budget decision that they make,” says Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic swimmer who won three gold medals and a silver in the 1984 Olympics.
Today, she teaches at the Florida Coastal School of Law and specializes in Title IX cases. “To say that you can't afford men's minor sports is ridiculous,” she says. “There are three genders - men, women and football.”
Maybe. But where does that leave five foot five gymnast Jason Lewis? They don't make football uniforms his size.
“You have all these guys who are our size, you know, there's no way we're ever going to play football ever. I mean we're not basketball stars,” says Lewis.
“I pray that I'm going to have girls because that's the only way they're going have an opportunity to do any college athletics,” adds Dotson.
If you want to see what it's like when Title IX requirements are met in full, look at the University of Maryland. They've got just the right number of men and women on their teams. And Maryland has a championship basketball team.
What you probably don't know it also has one of the best women's lacrosse teams in the country.
“We've won seven consecutive women's national championships in the sport of women's lacrosse,” says Maryland's athletic director Debbie Yow.
“We have many, many more men who would like to be a member of the men's wrestling team without any scholarship aid at all. They just want to be there. They just want to be a member of the team.”
And if a guy wants to join, he may not be able to since there are only a limited number of spaces.
“They cry, a number of them do, because it's so devastating to them to not be able to participate,” says Yow.
But the men point out that Title IX isn't just about sports. It says that colleges can't discriminate according to gender. Period. So why only enforce it in sports? Why not in mechanical engineering, or physics, or dance?
“I think that if we're not going to go into collegiate dance programs and tell them to get rid of 80 percent of their women so that they're proportional, then I don't why we're going into collegiate athletic programs and doing that,” says Kocher.
Are women not as interested in sports as men?
“You know, I find that argument as insulting as when, you know, they used to say, you know, women aren't really interested in owning property,” says Hogshead-Makar. “Women really aren't interested in voting. Right? They said it with a straight face, and they meant it.”
“You know, men never had to prove that they were interested in athletics. Why do we have to? Where does the double standard come from?” adds Foudy.
After 30 years of Title IX, most schools are still not in compliance. The Department of Education is trying to change that, and at Arizona State University it got results.
Arizona State has more female athletes on teams, and they’ve built new facilities, a soccer field and a $3 million softball stadium just for the women.
“It is part of our Title IX compliance,” says associate athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb.
But the Department of Education is playing hardball. It says that even with all these improvements, Arizona State is still on the wrong side of the law. That's because while 52 percent of the students are women, only 40 percent of the total athletes are women.
It’s turned into a numbers game. The government told the university it needs 80 more women athletes. As a result, the university needs more sports for women and is now considering the creation of a women's varsity rowing team – at a school located in the desert. Only thing: There won’t be a team for men.
Never rowed before? No problem. Even with no experience you may be eligible for a scholarship. It's great for the college, great for the girls, and it really ticks off the boys.
“We've been wrestling since we were 4, and these women are going to be part of a Division One,” says Warder.
Some of the men who are being dropped from college sports are champions.
Gymnast Steve McCain was ranked number 3 in the nation and was training for the Olympics at UCLA when the school announced in 1994 that it was dropping its men's gymnastics team - a team that had produced a steady stream of Olympians.
“Everyone in the world that knows anything about gymnastics knows that UCLA had a great program. And here it is, gone,” says McCain.
With his team gone and his training disrupted, McCain's hopes of going to the '96 Olympics were also wiped out. He left UCLA to start training full time and made the Olympic team in 2000. But he says he is worried about America's future Olympic chances. Most of the sports that have been dropped by colleges are men's Olympic sports.
And, as we said, a group of male coaches -- led by the wrestlers -- is suing the government, claiming that Title IX is encouraging sexual discrimination against men.
In response to the lawsuit, the government has set up a commission to study Title IX and consider making changes. But some of the women 60 Minutes spoke to are afraid that the commission might swing the pendulum back and knock them off the field once again.
“I think it's an enormous threat to all the gains that women have made in sports over the last 30 years,” says Hogshead-Makar.
“I think I'm trying to enforce Title IX, because it says don’t discriminate on the basis of sex,” says Kocher. “Well, when you're telling males to clean out their locker because they're males, because we have too many of you, if that's not discrimination on the basis of sex, I don't know what is.”