Margot Polivy, women’s champion in college sports, dies at 85

Margot Polivy, women's champion in college sports, dies at 85

Margot Polivy, the high school physical education teacher turned lawyer who lobbied tirelessly in the federal government to legally guarantee that college athletic departments provide women equal opportunities to participate in sports, at her funeral in Washington on October 7 He died at home. She was 85 years old.

His death was confirmed by his sister Gail Polivy, who said the cause had not yet been determined.

In the 1970s, representing women’s groups on campus and on Capitol Hill, Ms. Polivy (pronounced PAHL-ee-wee) battled the male-dominated National Collegiate Athletic Association and won a bill to change the vague wording of Congress’s anti-discrimination mandate. Who helped create it? There is no specific mention of sports in the Hail Mary pass, which profoundly expanded the resources available to female athletes in high school and college.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states only, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, any education program or activity, Or will not be made a victim of discrimination. “Federal Financial Aid.”

But once athletes filed claims for those benefits, Title IX was interpreted to include nondiscrimination in sports, Ms. Polivy, the attorney for the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, who advocated for women and girls in education. He partnered with the National Coalition for International Justice and emphasized that the rules being drafted to implement the law meet the expectations of the organizations’ supporters.

Margaret Dunkel, whose 1974 analysis documented discrimination against female college athletes provided the blueprint for the rules, said of Ms. Polivy in an email, “She was a major player in shaping the sports rules of Title IX. She was an athlete who opened athletic scholarships to women and set the standard. “To ensure that women’s teams get the funding and resources they need to excel.”

The women’s group Ms. Polivy represented amateur student athletics with priority given to physical education. This approach was in contrast to the dominant male model of student sports, which prioritized recruiting, scholarships and winning over generating financial contributions from alumni – and, critics said, encouraged academic laxity.

Instead of drafting a bill that would appease athletic directors by exempting revenue-generating sports like football from the rules, Ms. Polivy, walking around the Capitol without a desk, crafted an alternative — which she wrote down on a sheet of paper. Which was towards the back. Representative Shirley Chisholm, a Brooklyn Democrat. The resulting bill was signed by New York Republican Senator Jacob K. Javits.

Their choice gave Title IX supporters what they had always wanted, Michael McCambridge wrote in “The Big Time: How the 1970s Transformed Sports in America” ​​(2023): “Athletic departments in particular were deprived of opportunity and reasonably equal resources. Will provide a uniform equality.” In scholarships.” He said the bill “in essence reassures colleges that they won’t have to spend as much on gymnastics equipment as they have to spend on football equipment.”

Women’s rights groups had by then reluctantly accepted some of the economic realities behind collegiate athletic programs. Ms. Polivy accomplished what he set out to do, Mr. McCambridge wrote, by injecting “broad idealism with a tough-love dose of the realities of the painful world of politics and law” into the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Margot Polivy was born on April 25, 1938 in the Bronx. His father, Charles, sold paint and wallpaper. His mother, Ruth (Klein) Polivy, was a housewife.

After graduating from Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, Ms. Polivy earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Hunter College in Manhattan. He then taught physical education at Hunter College High School and received a law degree from New York University School of Law in 1964.

He was then hired as an associate counsel by the Federal Communications Commission, where he oversaw the Fairness Doctrine, which required equal broadcast time for political candidates. He worked for New York Representative Bella Abzug in Washington from 1971 to 1972, and then started a law firm, which became known as Renouf & Polivy. It was from here that she was recruited by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Ms. Polivy’s sister is her only surviving survivor. His life partner, Katrina Renouf, died in 2009.

Ms. Polivy “was a tough negotiator and tenacious advocate,” Ms. Dunkel said. “At the same time, her New York elbows were tempered by an irreverent and charming sense of humor that lightened the mood and made her more likely to say yes.”

The Intercollegiate Athletics Association for Women was eventually absorbed into the NCAA, which took control of women’s sports and ceased operations in 1982. By the early 1980s, courts were curtailing the reach of Title IX.

“But if it did not comply with the passage of time, it at least served some creative purposes,” Ms. Polivy wrote in a 1978 opinion essay for The New York Times. “This allowed an emotional adjustment period, during which all the old arguments about ‘normal’ girls’ preference for passive activities became universally recognized in their absurdity.

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