FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Female athletes at Purdue Fort Wayne are hailing former Indiana U.S. Senator Birch Bayh as a hero for his role in authoring the Title IX law.
Bayh died Thursday morning in Maryland. He was 91 years old.
"All of us here that are in sports today stand on the shoulders of people like Birch Bayh, and others who have always been champions of equal rights for all people," said head softball coach, Germaine Fairchild.
Title IX banned discrimination against women in college admissions and sports, but Fairchild said it did so much more for women.
"Its biggest impact is that it classifies sexual harassment and sexual assault as sex discrimination," she said.
When Bayh championed Title IX in 1972, women earned fewer than 10 percent of all medical and law degrees. That's why Olivia Coleman said she attributes her criminal justice degree to the law.
"I feel like without Mr. Bayh it'd be very hard to get a job in that field with how things are, so I appreciate him for that," she said.
Ashley Botham, the head cross country and track coach, said she coaches both men and women, and that's the basis of Title IX.
"It's cool that I have young women looking up to me to see what they want to do with their lives and help to guide them, but I also get to guide young men along the way, too," Botham said.
Botham said because of Title IX, there's now more than three million girls in high school sports, and in Division One of collegiate sports, women have the highest participation rate at 47 percent.
"We're not all nurses and teachers anymore. And then males also can feel like, 'I can be a nurse or I can be a teacher,' And I think it just breaks down those stereotypes and lets people be what they want to be, and become who they want to be and chase their dreams without labeling it," she said.
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