Senator Birch Bayh: A Tribute


Fritz Polite, President
The Drake Group
(407) 758-0811

Senator Birch Bayh: A Tribute

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – On his recent passing at age 91, The Drake Group wishes to pay tribute to the life and work of former Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN). His crafting and caretaking of Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1972 changed the world of college sports more dramatically than any other piece of legislation before or since. As one source put it, “Senator Bayh could justly be hailed as a hero on every American college and university campus.”[1]

A study in 2006 showed that women’s participation in college sports had increased by 450%. Another study in 2008 revealed that the number of women’s teams had increased to 9,101, or 8.65 per school, with the greatest participation (in rank order) in these sports: basketball, volleyball, soccer, cross country, and softball.[2] According to another source, “Women’s participation in college sports has increased more than fivefold since the law’s passage. Before Title IX, women’s sports received less than 2 percent of college athletic budgets; they now receive 37 percent. Also, girls in high school sports now number over 3 million, or one out of every two girls enrolled.

But Title IX was never only about athletics. Women’s representation among law school students has risen from 7 percent to 43 percent; among medical school students, from 9 percent to 41 percent.”[3] And since the 1990s following a series of three Supreme Court decisions, Title IX has come to play an increasingly important role in dealing with claims of sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. During the Obama Administration the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education took the initiative to reinforce the use of Title IX in this way by special guidance it issued for higher education institutions in 2011.

But far beyond the college campus the law has resulted in positive effects on women’s health and well-being generally. “A 2006 study sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research credited the legislation with a significant increase in physical activity and improvement in weight and body mass among adolescent girls and young women since the 1970s, lowering their risk of many medical problems. No other American public health program can claim similar success, the study’s authors found.”[4] The effect on equal opportunity in education and employment more broadly has been dramatic also. For example, women now make up more than half of those receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees at American colleges.

Not only was Senator Bayh the creator and lead sponsor of the law when it first passed

Congress, but he also continued to be its champion in later years. As co-founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Donna de Varona said: “In 2005, when former House Speaker Dennis Hastert convinced President Bush to create a commission to reexamine Title IX, Bayh emerged from retirement to ensure that the law didn’t get eviscerated.”[5] Powerful testimony comes from Merrily Baker, who as a young head of women’s athletics at Princeton was chosen as the only female sports representative on a committee convened by the Office of Civil Rights to prepare the first interpretation of and guidelines for Title IX after it was signed into law by President Nixon. She later went on to become women’s athletic director at the University of Minnesota and athletic director at Michigan State. She also served on the Executive Committee and as Assistant Executive Director of the NCAA and was the last president of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). Baker describes Birch Bayh as “a man who was a true champion in defining equal opportunity for girls and women! His greatest legacy is that he set the table for all women to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential . . . and to create legacies of their own! Not only girls and women in sport, but in science, in the arts, in health and human services, etc. He believed that gender equity is a moral imperative, and he championed that belief all the way through the halls of Congress and beyond. He was a wonderful human being . . . and one to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude! Without his co-authoring and promotion of Title IX, many of us women in sport would never have had the opportunity to experience play on a level-playing field . . . or to access leadership positions that simply were not available to women before the passage of Title IX.”[6]



[2] For more information about these studies and citations, see “Title IX,” Wikipedia: https://


[4] Ibid.


[6] Email to Sanford G. Thatcher on March 19, 2019


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