Date of this Version



Professor Nancy Hirschmann


Title IX, discrimination, sports, athletics, ghost athletes


Title IX of the Education Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act established a three-prong test to determine whether or not educational institutions are providing female and male students with equal opportunities for athletic participation. Under the proportionality prong of the test, schools must demonstrate that their overall percentages of female and male athletes are substantially proportionate to their respective enrollment percentages. However, to circumvent the financial costs needed to increase female participation, many schools use roster manipulation to artificially inflate their proportionality numbers. This thesis investigates the practice of using ‘ghost athletes’ on women’s team rosters to artificially achieve Title IX compliant gender proportionality statistics. It analyzes the practice against scholarly research, legal arguments, and relevant Title IX court precedent to argue that it violates Title IX. Relying on expert literature, an autoethnography of my own experience with ‘ghost athletes’ on the University of Pennsylvania varsity women’s fencing team during the 2017-2018 season, and Title IX jurisprudence, this thesis demonstrates that ‘ghost athletes’ do not constitute genuine athletic participation opportunities and cause significant (and legally-relevant) harm to female athletes. The research presented supports the finding that using ‘ghost athletes’ to inflate female participation numbers subverts the intentions of equality underlining Title IX and violates the federal statute.



Date Posted: 21 October 2020


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