Should College Athletes Be Paid: Debate on Gender Integration in Athletics

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It is the year 2018, and you cannot turn on the television without seeing women dominating in sports. One of the great debates of this generation is whether girls should be allowed on boys’ sports teams. When Title IX, the landmark legislation that bans sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funding, was signed into law by President Richard Nixon 40 years ago this weekend, gender equality in sports was not the point.

Supporters of the law had no idea this single sentence—slipped without much fanfare into an education bill—would be a game-changer for women’s athletics: “No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

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Gender Equality vs. Athletic Excellence

Sports are a pastime for many Americans, especially because they emphasize perseverance, responsibility, hard work, and other attributes of excellent character. Sports also build teamwork and produce great self-overcoming and some self-knowledge when participants run up against their limits.

Sports bring great joy as people overcome obstacles and strive for the level of excellence appropriate to them, just as they produce healthy agonies as people face defeat. It is salutary in many respects that women enter the sporting world in greater numbers than they did in the past so that these lessons pervade American society.

When it comes to the most competitive levels of athletics, there seems to be some tension. Nowadays, most Americans insist on equality between the sexes in all things, yet this insistence becomes murky when it comes to sports; We also thirst for athletic excellence, which is more commonly found in men. Can equality between men and women exist when it comes to sports? This could be a safety hazard for females in a high-contact sport like football if society were to allow girls to play on all boy’s teams. Dr. Wallace agrees with this statement, “And in most sports, strength and size make the difference, and these attributes are extremely important to team success. That’s why I firmly believe that sexes should be separated in athletics.”

“There is no reason girls should not be able to play football, just not with men. The thought of professional coed sports is ridiculous. There is a reason the biggest woman bodybuilder does not even compare in size with the men; it is because their bodies are simply not made to do so. Look at  the Olympics, maybe not events like gymnastics, but as far as any sport that records times and physical output, men will always dominate.

The fastest woman is not faster than the fastest man; the same goes for strength. Sports for girls, in general, have many benefits, including better grades, better body image, less depression, and a higher chance of graduating from high school, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. Allowing girls to compete alongside and against boys enhances their view of themselves and makes them more resilient, according to Jeffrey Rhoads, author of ‘The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child.’

Allowing boys and girls to play sports together builds better friendships that might not otherwise exist. Learning to view the opposite sex as a friend and not something intimidating is something kids can carry with them for life, wrote Steve Sampsell in ‘Kid Sports Magazine.’ Outside of high school and collegiate levels, some would argue that No, women should not be allowed on men’s sporting teams because they fear that women would get hurt. Especially in contact sports such as football for instance.

Safety Considerations in Contact Sports

Football (American) is a 100% contact sport and there are between an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year, leading The Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) concluded that sports concussions in the The United States has reached an epidemic level, with High school athletes sustaining an estimated 300,000 concussions per year. A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head. This is the primary reason that people feel women shouldn’t participate in this sport.

Imagine a 6’2, 300-pound lineman tackling a 5’5, 140-pound woman at full speed. Women playing what is thought to be ‘men’s sports’ are a common thing now. In 2000, the National Women’s Football Association (NWFA) was a full-contact American football league for women headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The league was founded by Catherine Masters and ceased in 2008. The main rule was no hitting below the waist, which is allowed in men’s football and referred to as s tackle or sack.

Creating Equal Opportunities and Friendships

Not only are women playing on some football teams, it is not the only sport that women are participating in with men. They are also playing basketball with them. This is a lesser-contact sport than football, but still  very physically demanding. Height would be a factor for most women wanting to play basketball with men. It would be a disadvantage because the woman can’t properly guard a 6 ft male when she is only standing at 5 ft tall herself.

On April 24, 1996, women’s basketball announced “We Got Next” as the NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to begin play in June 1997. Since then, the WNBA has been the home for the best women’s basketball talent in the world. With the league having completed its 21st season.

Instead of allowing the women to play with the men on their team, although they played the same sport and roles and followed similar rules, the NBA, National Basketball League allowed the women’s version of the game to be formed. Could this perhaps have been a sneaky way of still allowing the women to participate in a male-dominated sport, all the while still not allowing them to play with the men.

Balancing Equity and Practicality

Then you have women who are on wrestling teams. Some may see this as a disadvantage also because men are supposed to be stronger than women. This is a full-contact sport also and can be physically demanding. Although you have women who can lift just as much as men when it comes to weight lifting, people still feel that men are stronger and unequally matched when it comes to competing against a woman. There are two types of teams in wrestling. Intergender wrestling and mixed wrestling are a type of professional wrestling matches between a man and a woman and may also refer to tag team matches with both men and women on each team.

Intergender tag team matches are not to be confused with mixed tag team matches: there is a rule governing mixed tag team matches that restricts male and female competitors from attacking each other. If a tag is made, the other team must automatically switch wrestlers, who should be of the same gender as the opposing team’s legal wrestler. This type of tag team match continues to be popular in the present. On the other hand, male and female competitors in an intergender tag team match are free to wrestle and pin each other. The sport of wrestling does not stop after high school or collegiate level either.

Professional wrestling is and has been a major American sport since it launched in 1971 initially by Georgia Championship Wrestling, the program existed through various incarnations under different names before becoming WCW Saturday Night in 1992. Although initially, the anchor show of the Ted Turner-backed wrestling company, the September 1995 premiere of WCW Monday Nitro airing on sister station Turner Network Television usurped the show’s once-preeminent position in the company as the primary source of storyline development and pay-per-view buildup.

Perhaps the most successful female the wrestler who competed in intergender matches was Chyna. Regularly booked to wrestle her male counterparts during the WWF Attitude Era; she was a three-time Intercontinental Champion, a championship traditionally only contested by men and was briefly #1  contender for the company’s world championship.

Outside of the safety concerns and issues, we must also look at the financial responsibilities that would escalate if men and women played the same sports team. The women would need separate showers and dressing rooms for sure. Would the women require a different set of team doctors, would these doctors have to be women for the female players to be comfortable?!

Professional Leagues: A Mixed Approach

If we allowed men and women to play on the same team in a contact sport such as football or wrestling, there would be that very fine line on what would be considered groping/touching or any kind of inappropriate sexual contact. How would appropriate touch during a tackle or being pinned under a male during a wrestling match be determined if/or the claim of sexual misconduct or harassment came about? Then there are the issues of women getting paid in professional sports. Do the women get paid the same as the men would/do? They are playing the same positions, so they should be paid like the men, right? Wrong.!

These are These are just a few slight things that are thought of when trying to determine if men and women should play on the same sports teams. It is not about not wanting the women to play, nor suggesting that they cannot compete with men. Incredibly, the majority of Americans agree that it’s okay for women to play sports, but just not with men. Even after the formation of both the NWFA & WNBA, women’s sports did not seem to hold the attention of the people the way men’s sports have. Then the question is not ‘Should women play with men’ but instead, do people really want to see women play, period?

In women’s basketball and football games, we see smaller crowds than we would normally see at male sporting events, and why is that?! Same thing with merchandising; why is it that NFL and NBA jerseys will completely sell out, but the women’s jerseys barely do numbers? If the women’s crowds are smaller than the men, that means the ticket sales are not going to be the same as the men’s games, causing less revenue for the women. Women are arguably just as great as men are at these sports and others, if not better than some (men), so in my opinion, choosing not to want women on male teams is not because the women are not good enough to compete with. There are a lot of factors to consider when entertaining the thought of co-ed teams.

Women have proven to be great athletes. Their speed, energy, perseverance, and strength, although when compared to most of their counterparts, not the same, allow them to be great athletes. Young Girls have these women to look up to and aspire to be like. Instead of Lebron James, they can look up to Skylar Diggins. They have Serena Williams to look up to if they want to dominate in tennis, etc. Now, you cannot see a sport on tv that women are not participating in and excelling in, from football to baseball, track and field, skiing, sledding, wrestling, swimming, golf, soccer, volleyball, you name it, and women are participating in.


Title IX is best known for transforming women’s athletics. In 1972, just 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; today, about two in five do, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. The number of women playing at the college level has skyrocketed by more than 600 percent. Yet progress toward gender equity in sports has been uneven and incomplete. Here are five charts showing what’s changed—and what has not—since Title IX’s passage in 1972.

Between 1972 and 2011, the number of girls competing in high school sports jumped from under 295,000 to nearly 3.2 million, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations. But girls’ opportunities still have not reached the level that boys were at back when Title IX was passed, and high schools today provide 1.3 million fewer chances for girls to play sports.

There are more women playing collegiate sports—about 200,000—than ever before. The number of female athletes at NCAA schools has increased from less than 30,000 to over 193,000 since 1972, but women still have over 60,000 fewer participation opportunities than their male counterparts. A lot of women will argue that they are equally physically and mentally capable of playing on male sports teams. I feel that it should be their choice, and if they can fulfill the obligations and duties of the position, they should be allowed to play.


  1. “Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports” by Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano
  2. “The Boys on the Bus” by Timothy Crouse
  3. “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids” by John O’Sullivan
  4. “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children” by Tom Farrey

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Should College Athletes Be Paid: Debate on Gender Integration in Athletics. (2023, Aug 15). Retrieved from

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