Film on Title IX to debut on Big Ten Network

Film on Title IX to debut on Big Ten Network

URBANA — The Big Ten Network will premiere, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, the new documentary, "Title IX: Let 'em Play."

The documentary also will be broadcast at 10 p.m. Friday, airing both before the first game of the Big Ten women's basketball tournament and immediately after the last game in the tournament.

In the documentary, Karol Kahrs, the University of Illinois' first women's athletic director, tells of the tumultuous first years after President Richard Nixon signed legislation on June 23, 1972, to prevent sex discrimination in educational institutions.

Kahrs, who earned a doctorate in curriculum, foundations and professional preparation at Ohio State University the year the legislation was signed, remembers the struggles of her first years on the job.

She inherited a program that was underfunded, so she recruited volunteers to do everything from running swimming and track meets to mowing the grass for field hockey. Then in 1978, two female track and field athletes threatened to sue the UI over Title IX compliance.

The main grievance of the Illinois athletes was that the university was spending more than four times more on men's sports than on women's.

The lawsuit was settled out of court and the budget for women's sports was tripled. It gave Kahrs the money to hire three more full-time coaches and to provide additional scholarships to female athletes.

The program also looks at the fight through the Tower Amendment to keep football and basketball exempt from Title IX compliance. Sen. John Tower, R-Texas, proposed to exclude revenue-generating sports from giving up scholarships for women's athletics.

UI football coach Bob Blackman, Nebraska's Tom Osborne and Michigan's Bo Schembechler all testified in favor of the Tower amendment. Despite the support, the amendment never got out of committee. (Tower died in 1991.)

"Title IX: Let 'em Play" is produced by Tim Hartin and Alison Davis Wood for the UI Office of Public Affairs and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Associate producers are Kaitlin and Kevin Southworth.