Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 28, 2002


Title IX opens up
new questions

Smaller men's sports programs
say it has brought inequality

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By Cindy Luis

"No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Title IX
Educational Amendments of 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act

After 30 years, the Title IX debate continues. The law that was supposed to provide equal treatment for men and women in education is now being applied unequally in athletics.

A women's college basketball team, for example, is allowed 15 scholarships, enough for three five-player sides. A men's college volleyball team is limited to 4.5 scholarships, not even enough for a six-man side.

What skews the numbers at most schools is football, a sport with a limit of 85 scholarships. That's nearly enough to suit up four teams with a complete offense and defense.

One common argument centers on equity among the various sports. Is a fourth-string running back on scholarship who never gets into a game more important than that sixth starter in volleyball who doesn't receive a scholarship?

At the heart of the matter is revenue. Only two sports on a national level have a chance to make major money for their respective institutions: football and men's basketball.

The multi-million dollar television payouts from the Bowl Championship Series in football and the men's NCAA basketball tournament create an inequity that can never be equalized. Men's volleyball may make money at the University of Hawaii, but, with just 22 Division I programs, there is no national audience and no huge TV bucks.

One line of thinking is that the NCAA should remove the number of scholarships in the revenue sports -- particularly football -- from the equation that determines the rest of a school's scholarship ratio. However, while football may bring in the most money, it also spends the most money; less than 50 percent of football programs realize more than a negligible profit.

Exempting the perceived cash cow from Title IX compliance is a popular idea that likely would solve the imbalance that 85 scholarships creates. The fact is, there is no women's sport with comparable participation numbers.

However, removing football from the equation does not solve the problem across the board. There are 117 I-A football teams among the 317 Division I colleges. Do the rules change depending on whether football is offered or not?

Schools continue to drop men's minor (non-revenue) sports at an alarming rate, citing the need to increase athletic opportunities for women. More than 350 wrestling teams (NCAA and NAIA) have been dropped since 1972.

However, during the same time period, the number of football teams at the combined I-A and I-AA levels has increased from 187 in 1972 to 263 last year.

The reason? The potential of making big money, something a wrestling program cannot do.

Men's wrestling, gymnastics and swimming programs have taken the biggest hits over the past 30 years. But a number of programs have been dropped despite alumni offering to fund the program.

"They just wanted to get rid of the sport," said one league official. "The unfair thing was they blamed Title IX for it when it had nothing to do with what they call 'gender equity.' "

Title IX has provided women with increased educational opportunities, which was the intent of the law in 1972. Thirty years ago, women received 9 percent of medical degrees in the U.S. and 7 percent of the law degrees. In 1994, those numbers had climbed to 38 percent and 43 percent.

The current long-standing policy offers universities three ways to comply with Title IX: proportionality, or having a ratio of male to female athletes approximate to the overall ratio of male to female students; demonstrating a history of women's sports expansion, or demonstrating an ability to accommodate interests of the minority gender.

It is the first test, the proportionality to student-body ratio, that is now creating a huge problem. For example, 55 percent of the student body is female at the University of Hawaii. That means that 55 percent of the athletic scholarship opportunities are supposed to be offered to women.

It is a flawed practice, many say, based on enrollment percentages that fluctuate from year to year.

What happens when women have no interest in competing, preventing the "correct" ratio from occurring? Could it create a situation where the athletic department tries to influence the admissions procedures so as to manipulate the numbers that would allow for a higher percentage of men's scholarships?

If the latter happened, it just returns the educational system to the pre-Title IX days when colleges had low quotas for female and minority admissions.

Last Jan. 15, the National Wrestling Coaches Association sued the U.S. Department of Education, claiming Title IX discriminates against men in low-profile sports. Last month, the Bush administration argued the lawsuit was flawed on technical legal grounds.

The battle is far from over.

"Gender quotas are not applied to any other part of society as much as in college athletics," said Mike Moyer, the NWCA executive director. "It is a very good law that has been very poorly regulated."

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