In case you hadn’t noticed, women’s college basketball has awoken from its low-talent slumber and burst, fresh faced and frisky, into the prime-time floodlights. This year’s championship game on April 2 between Louisiana State University (LSU) and Iowa packed 19,482 people into the American Airlines Center in Dallas, and it put 9.9 million (peaking at 12.6 million) in front of their flat screens. That’s an insane 103 percent ratings hike from the previous year and a better rating than all but three of last year’s college football bowl games.
Trans participation is likely only to grow as LGBTQ numbers escalate in the population — and especially in Generation Z.
Women’s basketball can thank Title IX for that kind of energy and those kinds of numbers. The historic legislation, which came in 1972 as an attempt to level the playing field between the sexes in academic life, including athletics, has grown the number of girl athletes exponentially since its inception: College women playing intercollegiate sports in 1971–72 numbered 29,977; in 2020–21, 215,486; in high school the numbers were, respectively, 294,015 and 3,402,733.
More players produce a deeper talent pool, which produces better coaching, which produces better play, which produces a sports product that can inveigle lucrative media contracts, which put millions in front of their televisions, which produces more interest and more players, which perpetuates the cycle.
Sure, women’s basketball can thank Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese as well. The two stars — the former an Iowa Hawkeye sharpshooter, the latter an LSU “big” with smooth under-the-basket skills — put up big numbers and displayed infectious charisma throughout the tournament, and they even engaged in a trash talk set-to that extended beyond the final horn and into after-game media coverage — talking smack is no respecter of gender.
Women’s college basketball has traveled light-years in the past couple of decades. You used to be able to count on one hand the women who could go up with a 15-foot jumper off the dribble. Clark, whose coach gave her an unconditional green light, is a generational talent; nobody like her has come along in the women’s game ever. She was draining 23-foot pull-up jumpers on a consistent basis and hitting cutters with pinpoint “dimes” throughout the tourney (see for yourself). Reese dominated inside with tenacious rebounding and deft putbacks. South Carolina’s Zia Cooke looked like Chris Paul out there with her off-the-dribble jumpers.
Sure, there are still too many set shots in the women’s game, and the rebounding lacks ferocity, and the game is definitely played below the rim (way below the rim), but the product put onto the American Airlines Center floor a couple of weeks ago is an exciting form of basketball that charmed a nation of sports lovers and has the potential to draw a consistent viewership.
And the Biden administration seems ready to kill it with its Title IX revisions.
And not only basketball but other women’s college sports as well. Also jeopardized are volleyball, which puts upward of 20,000 into arenas for its final four every December and warrants extensive television coverage on conference cable channels, and softball, an erstwhile “sleeping giant” of a sport, which has awoken to big attendance figures and even bigger cable coverage.
The Department of Education, in issuing proposed new rules for Title IX compliance on April 6, could not muster the sand to prohibit men from competing in women’s sports. It had no trouble banning schools from banning such participation — “One-size-fits-all policies that categorically ban transgender students from participating in athletics consistent with their gender identity across all sports, age groups, and levels of competition would not satisfy the proposed regulation” — but it would not ensure the integrity of female sports and lock in the phenomenal successes of the original Title IX legislation.
The department did throw a sop to schools that may want to keep biological males out of women’s competitions, but they loaded such exemptions with qualifications. Schools must meet the competitive criteria established by the Education Department before they can restrict men who identify as women from competing in women’s sports. School rules must be “substantially related to the achievement of an important educational objective” and must “minimize harms to students whose opportunity to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity would be limited or denied.”
This will apply to high schools and colleges. Such schools may ban transgender athletes in the interest of fair competition and avoidance of injury if they jump through the requisite hoops.
At the elementary level, schools have virtually no shot at keeping transgender girls off the girls’ field or court. Said a fact sheet accompanying the proposed guidelines: “The Department expects that … elementary school students would generally be able to participate on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.”
Thus has the administration sought to have it both ways: to satisfy the militant transgender lobby while also placating traditionalists who see transgenderism as an existential threat to women’s sports.
Will it work?
One wonders how willing major universities, and sports conferences, will be to impose the permissible restrictions. The Ivy League didn’t have the guts to forbid a 6-foot-1 trans-identified swimmer named Lia Thomas from blowing away the field of biological women in the conference swim meet. The Connecticut high school athletic association wasn’t willing to tell biological males they couldn’t run in — and dominate — the girls’ sprints at the state high school track meet. Even athletes themselves seem oblivious to the threat and speak out in favor of trans participation.
No place is as in thrall to transgender ideology as American high schools and colleges, and the pushback from the trans lobby against any proscriptions whatsoever on trans athletes will doubtless be severe.
Already trans activists are losing it over the release of the proposed guidelines. Erin Reed said the rules “feel like a betrayal.” Wrote she in a Substack post, “The new regulations detail numerous ways schools can ban trans athletes while remaining compliant with Title IX, alarmingly echoing right-wing talking points about scholarships and risk of injury.” Mark Joseph Stern, senior legal writer with Slate magazine, tweeted: “To put it mildly, this is extraordinarily disappointing and a total reversal from a position the Biden administration has taken since Day One. Wow.” Imara Jones, a trans-identified woman who created The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality podcast, told the Washington Post: “The Biden Administration framed their proposal as a ban on blanket discrimination against trans athletes. But actually, it provides guidelines for how schools and universities can ban trans athletes legally.” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Absolutely no reason for the Biden admin to do this. It is indefensible and embarrassing.” Said Sean Ebony Coleman, a trans activist in New York, to the Post, “While [the proposal] hypothetically prevents across-the-board bans, it offers enough gray area for discrete gender policing and demonization to occur, specifically on a local level.”
Trans participation is likely only to grow as LGBTQ numbers escalate in the population — and especially in Generation Z, in which 21 percent identify as such. That means more trans athletes clamoring for “fairness” in the coming years.
Opinion polls show Americans one-sidedly against trans athletes competing in the sport they identify with, while television ratings show women’s collegiate sports gaining in popularity, in some sports dramatically.
Those two realities may butt up against each other in the not-too-distant future.
Is that television audience ready to see a big dude who thinks he’s a girl roaming the lane of a women’s college basketball game, or lining up in the front row on a women’s volleyball team, or striding impressively toward the plate while delivering a menacing fastball in a women’s softball game?
The Biden administration is threatening to kill the Title IX golden goose with its embrace of gender ideology.
Girls Are Now Being Banned From Sports for Wanting to Play Against Girls
Christian College Wants Supreme Court to Preserve Its Freedom to Have Sex-Specific Dorms
Canadian Taxpayers Forced to Fund Federal Employees’ Transgender Surgeries