Star-Bulletin Sports


Thursday, June 27, 2002


art



The ’90s
brought change

Women's sports thrived,
while lesser sports faced cuts

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From staff and wire reports

In the 1990s, college athletics truly came into its own as big business. Television networks began paying billions of dollars for the rights to football and men's basketball games played by big-name colleges in big-time conferences.

That gave those colleges money to lavish on their programs, while "lesser" schools fell behind, financially and competitively.

Meanwhile, a series of lawsuits transformed the tenor of the Title IX debate. A Supreme Court case, Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, established that plaintiffs could sue for monetary damages in Title IX cases. Female athletes did just that at Auburn, Brown and Colorado State in precedent-setting cases and settlements.

The courts, almost without exception, upheld the 1979 regulations, and the Education Department reaffirmed them in 1996. Having the proportion of female athletes match the proportion of females students provided a "safe harbor" for athletics directors to avoid lawsuits.

Unfortunately for the men's minor sports, schools took that as a way to cut men's programs without having to add women's sports to balance the number of male and female athletes.

In Hawaii, the small colleges continued to enjoy success in women's athletics as they moved from the NAIA to the NCAA Division II level. Hawaii Pacific won its first volleyball championship in 1990, Hawaii Loa in softball in 1991, and Brigham Young-Hawaii two tennis titles and five volleyball championships between 1991 and '96.

The opening in 1994 of the University of Hawaii Special Events Arena (now the Stan Sheriff Center) allowed attendance for women's volleyball to reach unprecedented levels.

During the 1990s, three varsity sports were added to the Wahine program: Soccer, sailing and water polo. Track was reinstated in 2000-2001, bringing the total number of women's varsity sports to 11.

UH has not dropped any men's sports since the late 1970s, but hasn't added any, either.

On the national scene, schools continue to drop men's minor sports to club status rather than trim what is perceived to be bloated budgets of football and men's basketball.

The battle continues over equity. Only now, the "minority" that Title IX was supposed to protect from discrimination has become male athletes in non-revenue sports.



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