Define Equity, Title IX Comment Count

Brian April 26th, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Today the New York Times launched a broadside at the widespread practice of futzing your participation numbers to make it look like your school meets the "proportionality" requirement demanded by Title IX. This trick in particular is bizarre:

At Cornell, only when the 34 fencers on the women’s team take off their protective masks at practice does it become clear that 15 of them are men. Texas A&M and Duke are among the elite women’s basketball teams that also take advantage of a federal loophole that allows them to report male practice players as female participants.

The federal government doesn't actually care what your gender is as long as you don't play.

To me, that absurdity demonstrates how futile Title IX is. There is more interest in men's sports to the point where you can't even fill out your rosters with women because no one is interested, so dudes step in to fence. Those guys can't play varsity (Cornell has a club team) because of Title IX.

The Times article and the reaction to it is totally opposed to this view. Triple counting track athletes and jamming tennis walk-ons for whom practice is optional is portrayed as scandalous. The very headline of the article establishes an editorial viewpoint:

College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity

Football comes in for its usual hit here:

Yet football, the pride of many universities and a draw for alumni, rarely faces cuts. The average Division I football team went from 95 players 30 years ago to 111 players in 2009-10.

“Football is the elephant in the whole thing,” Mr. Crouthamel said. “That’s the monster.”

This is obviously stupid. The Average Division I Football Team added a dozen or so walk-ons over the past 30 years. Walk-ons don't travel with the team. They don't get financial support. They just show up and fail to kick balls through the uprights. These days they don't even have an equipment cost—many schools have deals where they get that stuff for free. Meanwhile, many places the monster hands out free candy.

If we're talking about "equity" as treating different groups fairly, the thing that's undermining gender equity is Title IX. The article hits a bunch of different schools for practices like the bizarre loophole above but focuses most heavily on South Florida. The Bulls have 71 women's cross-country runners, many of whom are not aware they are on the team. The practice started shortly after USF started a football team, because football is a monster.

Football is a monster!

South Florida

Men's Basketball
Women's Basketball
Non Program Specific
Expense to Revenue Difference

Description of Expense Fields

Football… uh… essentially breaks even. Since basketball gets 100k in "direct university support" this makes it unique amongst USF sports. Women's basketball, meanwhile, gets 232k in direct support—those thirteen scholarships cost the school over a million dollars. Football's 85 cost the university 1,000 bucks each. USF could have 12.3 football teams for what it costs to run one small women's team.

In terms of money thrown at sports that don't have a prayer of ever making a dime, USF's women are killing the men. Football and men's basketball  could break even with small tweaks. The attention they get is a major way to let people know the University of South Florida exists. The reason USF sponsors those sports is because they are a net positive.

But Title IX pretends that money sent to them is like money sent to baseball/swimming/track/cross-country—essentially burned. It's not. There is a ROI in football. It's absurd to force a university to maintain proportional representation as if football is some sort of charity. Many places it's not: it's an investment. A law that isn't insane would recognize that.



April 26th, 2011 at 2:53 PM ^

Until a school can grant a degree in football, softball, ice hockey, or field hockey, that's missing the point.

Giving a student a scholarship for excelling in their degree program is not the same as granting a scholarship for excelling in sports.


April 26th, 2011 at 4:11 PM ^

It's missing the point because the scholastic parts of a university are totally different than the athletic parts. The AD should strive not to take money away from academics, because the academics are the primary purpose of the school. This is where the split occurs, IMO, between rewarding someone who is good in an academic field with university dollars, and rewarding someone who is good at extracirricular activities with university dollars.


April 26th, 2011 at 4:20 PM ^

athletic departments can justify their existence in an educational institution only if they can sustain themselves financially without university dollars?  I guess that'd be OK for Michigan, but we wouldn't have very many opponents, because very few athletic departments meet that standard.  More importantly, I doubt the Michigan athletic department (or most others) would agree with your implicit argument that athletics do not serve a university's core educational mission, but exist only insofar as they can make money.


April 26th, 2011 at 4:33 PM ^

Not only to make money, but it's pretty plain to see that while football (or softball to be fair) provides good life lessons and training in overcoming adversity and instilling a good work ethic, Michigan has not found that they are an "education" while they have found that music, theater or art are.

One is literally the purpose of an educational institution, one is tangential. As to funding money-losing athletic departments, I think that private schools should do whatever they choose, but public schools need to reign spending in big time. You're right that for M, it's no big deal to drop a few million on non-revenue sports; I think other schools need to be more careful with money they don't have.


April 26th, 2011 at 5:44 PM ^

I think a better question would be:

Do you support forcing every student who attends a university paying higher tuition to support the scholarships someone ELSE is getting? 

This question is utterly invalid if the money for scholarships comes from other sources, of course. I admit to not knowing how colleges and universities fund these things.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

If they truly wanted equality then there would be just 1 co-ed team for every sport at the collegiate level. 1 football team, 1 basketball team, 1 track team, on and on. The best at each sport would play. How can title IX claim equal rights when in actuality it wants to separate everything?


April 26th, 2011 at 1:33 PM ^

I realize this and I don't really want women's sports cut. What I don't like is that at the high school level if a girl wants to play football, she can. If a girl wants to wrestle, she gets to. How ever if a boy wants to play volleyball or softball he is not permitted to.

On a collegiate level there is supposed to be an equal number of participants. Football far and away has the most participants as well as creates the most revenue. I think the solution would be one of two things. A remove football from the equation, or two remove all sports in the black from the equation.


April 26th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

And right here is the gist of the argument regarding the lack of actual FAIRNESS between men and women's sports. If you have to lower the standards for women to play, or raise them for men, it isn't a FAIR comparison, and arguments to the contrary are rendered moot. 

Even in the military, there are 2 sets of standards, one for men, and one for women, regardless of the "job" you do while you serve.

If non-revenue generating sports are unsupportable, the university needs to have the option of dropping a program that costs millions, rather than raising tuition for everyone else. In this way, to this layman, at least, it seems title 9 actually screws everyone at the university who is just trying to get an education.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

You sure are setting the bar pretty low for women there.  How dare you suggest they couldn't compete with men.  Its that type of historical bias that has lead to the need for title IX in the first place.

But seriously, if you don't think the teams should be co-ed then you are asking for the same thing as segregation, separate but equal.  

There's nothing stopping women from having varsity sports teams and they likely would continue without title IX the same way many mens teams exist even though they don't generate revenue.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:44 PM ^

imposed by the group that had power and was intended to uphold the discrimination that those in power favored. Title IX protects a historically discriminated class of people and ensures them equal opportunity that would likely be absent without legislative action.  I don't think it's a remotely valid comparison.  


April 26th, 2011 at 2:11 PM ^

There are differences between men and women.  Yet we create title IX in the name of equality.  Something needed to be done to ensure women were given an opportunity to participate in sports.  What title IX should do is strive for fairness, not equality.  That is, there doesn't need to be the same number of male and female athletes or varsity sports teams for women to still be treated fairly.  Men shouldn't be denied the opportunity to play varsity sports simply because there isn't a comparable women's team to make varsity as well.



April 27th, 2011 at 2:58 PM ^

Equality and equal opportunity are not the same thing. T9 fights for equal opportunity (aka numbers of athletes). It's execution has failed, but it's theory is based off of an important concept of equal opportunity...not the fact that men and women are indeed equal in skill, competitiveness, etc.


April 26th, 2011 at 3:11 PM ^

I think the majority of sports fans agree that women deserve every right to play sports, but lets stop the bull that they can compete on the same field as men.  I went to a D-2 school in Michigan and two of top women basketball players of all time at the school would play pick up games with us.  Among a bunch of guys who played high school basketball, those women could not even guard the worst player on the court and were lucky to get a shot off.  It is not bias, just fact!


This whole debate is funny!  The same people, like the elites at the N.Y. Times, are the ones complaining that these big time college athletes are victims and should get paid.  Then on the other hand they are complaining about football numbers, which are paying for all these non-revenue Title 9 sports.  Maybe they will suggest a tax on the real successful programs to help those programs less fortunate.  That is the way we are headed in this country anyway.  You can't have a free market were people actually choose what sports they care about!


April 26th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

Why bull?  Men are faster and stronger, and any quick review of any track and field or swim meet will tell you so.  Gender equality doesn't mean you have to ignore things that are true on a fundamentally biological level.  Just because a team of random schmos would lose a basketball game to the UConn women doesn't mean "women are just as good at basketball."


April 26th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

a team of not-so-random schmos could beat the UConn women at basketball pretty much proves your point. There's a reason they have all these male practice players. Because they give the women more of a challenge, and chance to improve. And to be put in losing situations where they have to tough it out, rather than coast all the time vs. other women.


April 26th, 2011 at 8:12 PM ^

I really doubt that the guys who practice with the women's team are there for the women's benefit, but are rather using the women's team as a sort of development program. 


Ed: I guess I was being too cynical.  My bad. 


April 26th, 2011 at 8:50 PM ^

Anyways, the problem with this sort of essentialism

Is that while sure, men tend to have greater muscle mass than women that doesn't mean they are inherently better at sports.  And because people have decided "Oh, men are better at sports" they soon reach the conclusion "Well, would women want play sports if they can't do it as well as men." 


This is compounded by the fact that in sports where women would do very well, they are often not allowed to compete.  Ski Jumping is the classic example.  Women tend on average to outperform men in ski jumping (because they tend to be lighter)  There is no women's ski jumping in the Olympics despite several countries' ski clubs asking for it.  The Olympic committe claims it's due to lack of competetiveness...but considering how women's ice hockey has been a 2 team show since its inception that's kind of hard to justify.

Ed: After thinking about it a bit more, I've realized that claim is bull because it's entirely besides the point.  Even if women were as weak as kittens and slow as snails, they STILL DESERVE the priviledge of representing their university/city/country/ect in competition.  They also deserve to be treated just as well as the men.  Do you think that female athletes work less hard than their male counterpoints?  They should get the same priviledges as reward for their effort.



April 26th, 2011 at 9:48 PM ^

And because people have decided "Oh, men are better at sports" they soon reach the conclusion "Well, would women want play sports if they can't do it as well as men."

No, you're creating a link between two things that don't have one.  And all I said there was that men are, in fact, better at sports.  Men are better at almost every sport in existence - that's why we have separate sports in the first place.  That has nothing to do with whether they want to play or not, but if you're also unwilling to accept that men are more interested in sports than women are, then you're too disconnected with reality for this discussion.

And I don't know why you think I'm arguing that women's sports teams should be treated unequally because women are worse at sports.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

To just giving football a special status outside of the rest of the rules and standards imparted on other sports.  The rules have been put in place, with good intentions, by the NCAA and other institutions to promote fairness, leadership, etc.

Football's just become so profitable and massive that it really should be considered to be the semi-pro league (at least at the higher levels.) Applying common rules to swimming, fencing, and football does seem rather silly.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

I kind of like this compromise, but it becomes a slippery slope. Also, football is the easy sport to attack at many schools. Outside D-I, or even the FBS schools, they don't generate huge revenue. Case in point, there were no one at the spring gameWisco or Miami (Ohio), and I bet they both pull a profit at the end of the year. The little guys do not.


April 26th, 2011 at 3:04 PM ^

That's why if there is a law (and I won't try to get into this here because it's obvious that people either agree or disagree and MGoBlog isn't about to change a lot of minds) the rule should be financial status.

For example, if Title IX has to exist, Michigan should be allowed to write off football, hockey and basketball every year those teams make money (or make it retroactive to the previous fiscal year).


April 26th, 2011 at 1:46 PM ^

His argument is that it increases exposure to the university has value outside of the revenue it generates. For instance, I am a South Florida grad living in the Northeast. If South Florida didn't have a football team, and more specifically, a football team in the Big East, most of the northeast would never have even heard of the school. Granted, USF's basketball team also helps, but there is no way in hell the b-ball teams would be in the Big East if it weren't for the football team. Exposure helps all alumni. It creates name recognition nationwide.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

Yeah, right, but they're in a BCS conference. How's that "investment" thing working out for every single team in the Sun Belt? The MAC? The WAC (new)? Conference USA? Is Eastern Michigan getting tens of millions of dollars worth of exposure? Louisiana-Monroe?

These schools shouldn't have a football exemption. Our swimming team is more likely to generate exposure than Eastern's football team.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

Maybe not a football exemption, but surely some exception should be made for the fact that if some schools didn't spend money on football there would be no women's fencing team.

The argument I've always made is that every dollar in revenue from ticket sales (and ticket sales only because shenanigans can result from using things like TV money and merchandise) should cancel out a dollar spent for Title IX purposes.  So if the football team costs $10 million and you bring in $5 million in ticket sales, for Title IX accounting purposes you spent $5 million, not $10 million, on a men's sport.  That would go for every sport.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

I don't know if Eastern Michigan is getting their dollars worth of exposure, but if they aren't I'm pretty sure that they will cut the football program. If they are taking losses and continuing their football program, its either because they see long-term profitabilty (for instance, if they win some games), or because it is increasing the school's profile.

Looking at Conf USA, only two football programs lost money, only 1 by a significant margin. It isn't only the AQ Conference schools that benefit from their football program.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

Did you?


"As you’ll see below, the athletic department receives an amount much higher than the other athletic department profit leaders from student fees. However, it’s unlikely any of that is attributed to football. The more likely story is in alumni contributions and money derived from royalties, licensing and advertising, all of which could have significant portions attributed to football and which would understandably be higher at the nation’s second largest university."


April 26th, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

Yes, I read it critically. The author's speculation on that point makes absolutely no sense. He bases it all off of what one associate AD at another school said about his own program. It makes especially little sense considering we know student activities fees contribute 13 million (!!!) to athletic department coffers at UCF while donations count for 5.3 million.:


April 27th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

If you want to disbelieve the author's conclusions, that's your prerogative. But don't ask me if I read it as if it somehow supports your position and not mine. You are ignoring the article's conclusions and drawing your own, based on no sources and then asking me if I read it as if I would not hold the position that I held if I had only read the article.

M Fanfare

April 26th, 2011 at 1:23 PM ^

Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins has a pretty unique insight into Title IX since she was a varsity athlete at MSU right as it went into effect. Without going into much detail (she asked that certain aspects of what she said remain confidential), she detailed that there was a HUGE disparity early in her college years between how the mens teams and womens teams were treated when it came to scholarships (full for men, partial for women), transportation (men got buses, women had to caravan in coachs' cars), facilities and many other areas. By the end of her time at MSU, that had all been remedied thanks to Title IX. Like it or not, Title IX was a huge positive for womens' athletics by forcing schools to treat female athletes as equal to male athletes. Does it have some drawbacks? Of course it does, and sadly male athletes tend to get the short end of the deal. But I have to wonder what would happen if it was taken off the books. Title IX applies to high school athletics as well (in fact, the incident that prompted Title IX took place in Michigan at the high school level) and if high schools started cutting girls' sports, then women's sports at the college level might start drying up (despite the availability of non-school athletic teams in all sports). In short, Title IX was necessary to break an injustice, but it remains in effect to protect against a backslide towards what existed before.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

" forcing schools to treat female athletes as equal to male athletes."

I'm just going to point at the elephant in the room and say they aren't equal in terms of athleticism at the college level.


"...if high schools started cutting girls' sports, then women's sports at the college level might start drying up..."

This would be good for colleges who could start, to you know, break out of the red and get back into the black. You know, start working with a budget and not always be in debt... The economy is so bad that it takes drastic measures, and if Title IX was repealed for 5 or 6 years, it would allow schools to start making money.

I am for women's rights, but I dont necessarily think playing sports in college is a right. It's a gift. Most college athletes (men and women) don't have the gift, so why should a school be forced to recruit these athletes just to field a team in order for the schools to have equal teams to let their profitable sports exist.