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Full-Court Press

By Paul Arnett

Friday, April 21, 2000

UH on right track
with Title IX

THERE are those around the WAC who took delight in the University of New Mexico being called to the principal's office this week due to lack of Title IX compliance.

Lobos athletic director Rudy Davalos is viewed by some as a Darth Vader living among those in the land of enchantment. After all, he was not only instrumental in having the league carved up two years ago, Davalos was also an A.D. who cried loud and long about the expenses of going on the road to Hawaii.

Last June, he decided the best way to meet rising costs of running a Division I program was to cut three men's sports -- swimming, wrestling and gymnastics. The athletes and their parents of these respective sports pleaded their case to the Board of Regents, even going so far as to say they would try to help defray the costs, but it didn't keep the ax from falling.

Big mistake.

Last September, certain members of this group filed a Title IX complaint against New Mexico. In their eyes, this wasn't an economic decision, rather an easy way to balance the gender equity books. They believed the athletic department should increase opportunities for women, rather than hacking them off for the men.

WELL, last month, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education agreed. These folks said that New Mexico has three years to comply and offered ways this balance could be reached.

Not only that, they want the president of the university to complete an interests and abilities assessment by February. Either increase participation of female athletes or show that the interests and abilities have been met by the current programs.

New Mexico also has to submit an annual July progress report to the Department of Education's regional office of civil rights in Denver. Failure to do so, under the Title IX requirements, could mean loss of federal dollars to the university.

This is far worse than having the NCAA visiting your campus. It's one thing to be put on probation by the NCAA for overzealous fans paying for meals or providing cars, quite another for the federal government to stop funding grants. It makes the NCAA death penalty look like a slap on the wrist.

At the same time New Mexico was being carted off to the woodshed, Hawaii athletic director Hugh Yoshida was telling the Board of Regents he needed the OK to hire a women's rowing coach, something that could happen as soon as the fall, in keeping in line with Title IX requirements.

NO, the Rainbows aren't there yet. And no, they probably will never spend the same amount of money as they do for the men, but at least an attempt is being made to do it the right way.

Granted, the Rainbows aren't out of the monetary woods. They had outstanding seasons in women's and men's volleyball, and more importantly, in football, but making real dough alludes them.

Much more has to be done on a variety of levels to bring in the kind of money that makes season-ticket sales the gravy rather than the meal.

Winning the Oahu Bowl brought in the kind of money to help offset a disappointing run at the box office. But that kind of thing seems to happen only once every seven years around here. To avoid the sickening step of cutting men's programs to satisfy some mythical number, Hawaii has to market itself better and look under the lava rocks to find people willing to donate major bucks.

For now, UH has avoided New Mexico's fate. There is a small measure of justice in that, but it will be short-lived if the Rainbows don't continue to do the right thing themselves.

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.

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