Title IX needed now more than ever

A writer for Boise State’s Arbiter, one of the better college newspapers in the country, is taking a regressive stance on gender equity, essentially saying thatTitle IX is antiquated.

Mike Keefe/Denver Post

Mike Keefe/Denver Post

To be fair, this writer is a student journalist trying to learn her craft. However, the column fell flat because this reporter clearly did not do the requisite research nor did she interview those who coach any of the 10 women’s sports on campus. Instead, this sports columnist echoed what many other misinformed fans are saying – that Title IX is toxic for college athletics.

People continue to fight against gender equity, believing it is unreasonable to abide by the Education Amendments‘ main purpose: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The Arbiter’s columnist implies that Title IX is outdated because the system is working smoothly. But nothing could further from the truth. In reality, gender ≠ equity in college athletics. Nearly 40 years after Title IX was passed into law, the battles are still being waged in the courts, university offices, and playing fields. Too many administrators, fans and parents continue to block access for female athletes. Let me count some of the ways.

1. At Quinnipiac, males have been offered about twice as many athletic opportunities than females even though women make up a larger percentage of the student body. In addition, Quinnipiac tried cutting its women’s volleyball program, replacing it with competitive cheerleading, which has more participants, in order to balance its inequity. In addition, the school counted its women’s distance runners three times – as participants for cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, making it seem that the school had significantly more women athletes. Last summer, a federal judge ruled against the school, saying cheerleading is not suitable replacement for volleyball. Since then, Quinnipiac added a women’s rugby program and retained its volleyball squad.

2. At Ramona High in California, the girls softball team had to practice and play at a beat-up field with no real backstop at the nearby middle school while players had to change into uniforms at a dirty public restroom frequented by numerous homeless people. The boys, meanwhile, had a top-notch facility on the high school campus. So players and parents sued. Without Title IX, these girls would still be playing on a dangerously poor field and in an unsafe location.

3. A federal judge prevented Delaware State from folding its equestrian team in order to add competitive cheer. In addition, the university must add women’s sports teams to abide by Title IX.

4. At Bemidji State, male athletes earn 63 percent of all athletic opportunities, which is why the Minnesota university just announced that it would cut indoor and outdoor men’s track. As always, opponents will blame Title IX instead of focusing on mismanagement that allowed this inequity.

5. The University of Delaware is also cutting men’s programs – cross country and indoor track. Of course, the school  blamed Title IX, citing it 12 times in its announcement. But cross country and track are inexpensive sports, especially compared to the costs related to the school’s 103-member football team. Cross country’s budget = $20,000. Football at Delaware, meanwhile, loses a great deal of money and lacks fan interest. Fewer than 9,000 fans attended a football playoff game last fall.

6. A judge ordered Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois to construct a practice field, build two bullpens for pitchers, improve the scoreboard and press box facilities, and give softball players equal access to the school’s five batting cages. In other words, the school must treat the softball team the same as the baseball team.

7. At Slippery Rock University, school officials failed to comply with an earlier ruling that was supposed to improve facilities for softball, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer. So the courts intervened once more.

8. Public school systems in New York, Chicago and Houston have been violating gender equity requirements by offering far more opportunities to boys than girls. In Chicago, the participation gap between the two genders might be as high as 33 percent, says the National Women’s Law Center. That means nearly a third more boys compete than girls even though more than half the school system’s students are female. In New York, the discrepancy is about 8 percent. The number is about 12 percent in Houston. “These school are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the NWLC. Nationally, about 41 percent of all prep athletes are females, or an estimated 3.1 million. About 4.4 million high school boys compete.

9. Other local school districts that might not be in compliance – Columbus, Ohio; Deer Valley, Ariz.; Irvine, Calif.; Oldham County, Ky.; Clark County, Nev.; Worcester, Mass.; Wake Forest, N.C.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. School officials have typically decided to cut boys’ sports instead of adding more girls’ teams, which fuels the hatred many have for Title IX. At the NCAA level, male participation has decreased by 6 percent at the collegiate level since 1981 whereas women’s numbers have increased by 34 percent. Wrestling, tennis, and men’s gymnastics have been hit hardest.

10. California’s Cuesta College cut its women’s tennis program in 2009 after the state sent a late budget requiring considerable cuts. At the time, the college did not have a Title IX compliance director, a requirement. Meanwhile, no men’s teams were cut.

As you can see, young women still must fight to get the same opportunities that men receive.

Football is actually the culprit here, not Title IX. Football is considerably more expensive than any other sport, losing money in most instances. An NCAA report revealed that only 19 of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams earned a net profit in 2006. These same Division I schools lost, on average, $7.265 million. So why not scale back scholarships and limit rosters? The NCAA allows way too many slots for college football – 85 scholarships for Division I, which is 32 more than play for an NFL team. Allowing 85 for football is far more burdensome than Title IX. How about reducing the number to 60, 50, maybe even 45? That would open anywhere from 42 to 25 slots, enough to reach equity and to add another men’s team, such as wrestling, swimming, soccer, or, yes, baseball.

Targeting Title IX is way too easy (and way too wrong). Instead, let’s look at options that can offer equal opportunities for men and women across all sports, a road that begins and ends with college football. Actually, that road begins with tenacious journalists and ends with an informed public.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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