Title IX is a part of the Educational Amendments of 1972 that require all educational institutions that receive any federal funding to provide equal opportunities to both genders. Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving financial assistance.” Title IX has played a huge role in college athletics and has proven to have a negative impact on men’s sports.
Title IX was passed at a time when the opportunity for women to play sports on the collegiate level was extremely low compared to that of men. In addition, the women’s teams that did exist were poorly funded and thus did not have the proper equipment, coaching, or means of transportation to provide a competitive atmosphere to build women’s athletics in the United States. Therefore, when Title IX was passed in 1972, it was hard to argue against its appropriateness. In the last thirty years, Title IX has been successful in starting many new collegiate athletic teams, increased the number of female college athletes by 400%, and provided money to give these teams the resources needed to develop these women into quality athletes. However, we are now finding indisputable proof that Title IX is building women’s sports at the expense of the men’s programs.
Due to the wording of title IX, which puts emphasis on the equal amount of money universities must spend on its male and female athletic programs, university officials have no choice but to cut men’s athletic programs to stay within the budget. Men’s wrestling has been the biggest victims of these cutbacks due to Title IX. Over the past twenty years, the number of college wrestling programs has decreased from over 600 to 225. The state of Utah alone has 3500 high school wrestlers, but until Utah Valley State College added a wrestling program in September 2002, these wrestlers had to go out of state to continue their wrestling careers.
The problem extends well beyond the sport of wresting. Sports programs with winning traditions throughout the nation are taking the brunt of Title IX as well. The University of Miami, in order to comply with Title IX regulations, has been forced to cut its successful swimming and diving teams, which have produced 26 Olympians in past years. When members of the University of Miami alumni heard about these cutbacks, they got together and donated enough money to save the program. However, Pesident Clinton added a clause to Title IX, in an attempt to gain women votes in the 1996 election. The clause states that, “colleges have to match alumni contributions with an equal sum for women’s sports,” and therefore the alumnus’s efforts to save swimming and diving in Miami were unsuccessful.
Not only does Title IX require the funding to be equal among men’s and women’s athletic programs, but the number of participating athletes from each gender must be equal as well. This may sound fair enough, but when you consider that a football team has close to one hundred players on its roster, and there is no women’s football in the NCAA to counteract this large number, suddenly the athletic department must cutback men’s sports to even it out. This means that all other male sports are forced to decrease the size of their rosters, or have their programs cut entirely. The same holds true with athletic scholarships. Since a fully funded football team receives 85 full scholarships, there is not much left for the rest of the male sports. Title IX supporters put the blame on football for the lack of funding that male sports other than football receive. They argue that football could do just as well with only 60 scholarships, considering only eleven guys play at one time. This argument is short sighted though, as it ignores the vast amount of revenue a football team brings to an institution through bowl games, television appearances, ticket sales and food sales at the games. Cutting back on football’s funding would be like biting the hand that feeds you.
When it comes to the dwindled down number of roster spots on many male teams, coaches are finding themselves in the difficult position of having talented athletes who want to play and could make a contribution to the team, but don’t have room to keep them all. The idea of the workhorse walk-on player, who receives no athletic scholarship, is quickly becoming obsolete. These athletes are not even given the chance to prove to the coach that they can play. This also leaves many good athletes from small high schools, who never got any exposure, out in the cold. Drew Hill, is a sprinter who found himself in this compromising position when he went out for the William and Mary track and field team last year. The coach had no choice but to cut him, because the scholarship athletes took up all the roster spots. “I felt cheated,” Hill said. “I’m on academic scholarship. Even the coach said the most I was costing the college was two track shoes a year. I was hoping to end my athletic career on my own terms, not someone else’s.”
Another team that has been snake bitten by Title IX is the University of Oklahoma’s gymnastics team, who are the defending national champions. There success has not prevented their roster from getting sliced down from twenty-five spots, to a miniscule fourteen spots. Twelve gymnasts are needed to field a team in a meet, so this leaves little room for injuries, reserves, or any chance to build a team for the future.
University of Arkansas cross country and track and field coach John McDonnell is disgusted with these cutbacks. “What they are doing with walk-ons is deplorable,” McDonnell said, “A student should never be told, ‘You can’t try.’ We are supposed to build leaders and instead we’re saying, ‘Don’t reach for something.’ We have an obesity problem, and we’re telling college kids to go back to the dorm, sit on the couch, and watch sports on television.”
Fans of Title IX are still not convinced though. They insist that these cutbacks are necessary and walk-ons are the best place to start. Marilyn McNeil, the chairwoman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s committee on women’s athletics says, “If you’re not going to get your uniform dirty during games, you shouldn’t be on the team… We can’t afford it. It’s time to tell these students: ‘You’ve got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you’ve got a nice voice and belong on the stage.'”
McNeil and those who think like her are ignoring the over-inflated roster sizes of many women’s sports. In an attempt to achieve a gender balance, the University of Wisconsin has added a women’s rowing team with a roster of 170 girls. How many of them do you think will actually get a chance to compete against other schools? Meanwhile at UCLA, women’s swimming coaches were set out on a mission to recruit as many female walk-ons as possible. They were so successful, says athletic director Beth Stephenson, “You could go by the pool and hear someone say, ‘There’s too many people in my lane’ during practice. And the coaches were just worn out with such large numbers to oversee.” It appears that athletes, athletic directors, and men and women’s coaches alike, are scratching their head over the purpose and effectiveness of Title IX.
I hold strong views against Title IX because back when I competed in college athletics, I experienced the adverse effect it had on male athletes, while seemingly benefiting serious women athletes very little. I ran cross country for San Jose State University and my team was limited to eight members due to title IX. Seven runners compete in a race, so we only had the luxury of one reserve. My coach had to adjust our workouts to minimize the risk of injury, to assure we would have a full team that could compete by the end of the season. Meanwhile the women’s team had over twenty-five members and the coach was hassled by the athletic department on a daily basis to recruit more. He posted fliers in the dorms and walked through the school library in search of any women who might be interested in running. He would bribe them by offering priority registration and a free pair of shoes, pleading to them that they only had to practice four days a week for two months and compete in a minimum of two races. The walk-ons that joined were often not serious about the sport and were thus detested by the scholarship women who felt they were cutting into the coach’s time and diminished the significance of competing on the collegiate level.
As a high school coach, I encourage girls of all ages to participate in sports. I respect a female’s right to play sports and reap all the great benefits that they bring. I have been in the presence of many incredible female athletes and feel they deserve to be supported and nurtured in this country. However, I believe that Title IX is doing more harm than good in college athletics when male athletes that live for their sports are being denied an opportunity to compete in favor of women who are reluctant and have to be coaxed into participating.
Drew, Jay, “Utah Valley Gains Wrestling Program”, Utah Tribune, September 28, 2002
“Its About Opportunity”, http://www.syracuse.com/search/index.ssf?/base/opinion-1/1032597456139781.xml?syr
Kronholz, June, “College Coaches Press Bush On Interpretation of Title IX”, The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2002
Pennington, Bill, “Want to Try Out for College Sports? Forget it”, http://webmail.aol.com /msgview.adp?folder=su5ct1g=&uid=4439001
“Title IX and its Application to intercollegiate Athletics”, http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/ge/Title_IX.html, September 28, 2002
“Title IX: What is it?”, http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/cgi-bin/iowa/about/record.html?record=8, September 30, 2002