President Richard Nixon's controversial signing of the 1972 Title IX legislation is still a lightning rod of debate as the country gears up for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Title IX opened a number of doors for women in sports, medicine and law among other fields. The legislation bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics. The bill was never really about women's sports. Instead it was designed to end quota systems at colleges and universities that took federal money. If a school received dollars from Washington, it had to treat men and women the same.

Before 1972, the U.S. had 32,000 women playing college sports. By 1999 women expanded their presence to 163,000.

Some critics say the law has served its purpose and should either go away or be watered down.

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Donna de Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, is still fighting opponents of Title IX. "Title IX was a civil right act applied to education," said de Varona. "Basically it said in law school, medical school. Sports was thrown in."

De Varona, according to the New Jersey Newsroom has an innovative idea to keep Title IX and women's sports in general are saved. De Varona says the National Football League should be paying for the development of players at the NCAA level. Her plan is similar to the transfer fees National Hockey League owners pay to Canadian Junior A teams or to take players out of Europe in certain situations.

Don't expect penny pinching NFL owners to open their wallets to NCAA officials in our lifetimes.

De Varona helped fight off the Bush administration's attack on Title IX in 2002 and 2003 and says she's keeping a close eye on the GOP candidates for 2012.

"We have an ear to the ground," said de Varona"This can’t be about sports; it is about fairness and opportunity. Everyone pays if we change Title IX. During Bush II, the public stood up for Title IX. We have to keep the pressure on.”

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