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.


Pea-Tear Gryphon

April 26th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

Stop being a misogynist. It's quite obvious that "different but equal" has worked in every case. I mean, look at race relations in this country...

Srsly though, would colleges continue to fund women's sports if they were not mandated to by the federal government? I don't agree with the attacks on football programs, but wouldn't women's sports suffer a huge hit if Title IX were repealed? I hate the rule, but there are benefits from it too.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

how the hell is he being misogynistic?  not once does Brian say that title IX should be repealed.  not once does he say that men's sports are better than women's sports.  not once does he say that men's sports are more important than womens sports.


no, brian only says that football and men's basketball are friendlier to the bottom line than women's sports, which is a fact.  he also says that the current law is dated and is in desperate revision, which is also very true.  finally, he re-states the importance of football to athletic departments, and how, even though it keeps most ADs afloat, other men's teams are penalized for this.  how is this fair?


get the following chain of thought out of your head: an critique of title IX is NOT an attack on womens' rights.  rather, its a progressive outlook to make the world of college sports fairer to both men and women.


potential solutions?  exempting football is a good one.  or exempt any sport that can sustain itself.  if a sport can earn enough revenue to support other sports, men or womens, its earned the right to be exempt.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

In a sports context (as opposed to other contexts), I think Title IX can entirely be questioned.  To insult people who do so is not very helpful or polite.  Why does society need to expend large sums of money toward women's sports that are not even close to profitable, nor do they offer much in the way of career opportunities (other than coaching sports)?  Is this the best use of our funds?  Men's sports - some of them, anyway - can be justified to the extent that some male athletes may go on to be professionals.  Pro female sports hardly exist at all, save the WNBA (which survives only through heavy NBA subsidies).  It's interesting that people regularly question whether our country's academic standards are where they need to be, yet sports spending is somehow this sacred cow that can't be touched.  Pretty much all the countries that outperform us in international testing spend far less than we do on sports, especially women's sports.  Maybe they're on to something.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

Disagreeing with Title IX != sexism. To even imply anything else is ridiculous. I'm sure there are sexists that disagree with the law, just as there are bigots that disagree with any law.

Whether someone supports Title IX or not, you have to admit that there are other arguments against its implementation beyond hating women.

Personally, I agree with it's intent (more women playing sports) but disagree with it's purpose (to mandate demand/supply). There are both theoretical and utilitarian reasons to think this way beyond wanting women in the kitchen or some other absurd reasoning.

Michigan Arrogance

April 26th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

There have been a few people who have been fighting the "practice player" issue in college athletics for about 10 years. Women's teams have been practicing against male practice players for a long time. I can't believe the men could be counted as women tho.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

I have to say I never knew you could have male walk ons.   This was the one thing in this article that was very interesting.

The rest just gets me mad because again in the face of logic the government is forced to shoe horn some idiotic program and give it to the people, because of a few nut jobs who were able to find some good lawyers.

Everything would be fine if you would just allow football to be excluded.  To punish all the potential male teams because the 1 male sport (that for most schools generates the majority of the profit to fund the other sports) requires so many people is silly. 

This is being felt curently at my house.  My 5 yr old daughter is starting to enjoy things that cost a lot of money.  My 2 yr old son prefers cardboard boxes.   I have had to fight my wife on the fact that we don't need to spend the same amount of money to make both kids happy.  If this was Title 9 I would be forced to buy 37 Hot Wheels Cars to balance the purchase of the Tangled cd when he would get the same enjoyment from 5. 


April 26th, 2011 at 2:18 PM ^

Seems to me that as long as each of your children gets equivalent treatment / investment over their 18 years of being under your direct care, that should be sufficient.  Equity shouldn't have to be mandated simultaneously.  Your approach seems appropriate.


April 26th, 2011 at 12:53 PM ^

Not only that, but USF football is also a long term investment. It is obviously a new team (12 years old?), and as they build their fan base and increase their notoriety, they will become a huge revenue generator in the future.


April 26th, 2011 at 4:03 PM ^

I agree with your point of view here 100% Brian.  It's also too bad that the NY Times is so slanted these days that it can't present both sides of the story.  When I first started reading this I was thinking "Wait, the NY Times is actually wrote an article against Title IX," then, nope, my optimism was shattered once I read the title. 


April 26th, 2011 at 12:55 PM ^

Thank you as a liberal self-identified (male) feminist and lover of the New York Times, this article is tremendously obnoxious.  Yes it is probably thanks to opressive social convention, but women aren't as interested in playing sports as men are.  No one would mandate equal enrollment in a class on the history of fashion.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:21 PM ^

Actually, women outnumber men on U.S. college campuses by a wide margin (it's approximately a 57-43 ratio, and expected to reach 60-40 by 2020).  Whether you want to chalk that up to discrimination or not, men aren't going to college at the same rate.  If you believe that male and female intelligence is fundamentally identical and that any differences are due to societal influences, then our school systems are failing male students and expanded outreach is necessarily to achieve equality.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:01 PM ^

Yes it is probably thanks to opressive social convention, but women aren't as interested in playing sports as men are.

I wonder how much longer people are going to advance the "oppressive social convention" hypothesis.  The feminist idea that men and women's brains function exactly the same way, and that all differences are due to environment, flies in the face of a heaping pile of scientific research.   


April 27th, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

First of all this idea is not a feminist one, it's a "nature vs. nuture" psychology one. Two, most feminists (including myself) would never say that men and women have the same exact brain function. In fact, it's the opposite. The argument most educated feminists would put forth is that yes men and women are different, but it doesn't mean their opportunities should be different or limited (hence T9).

Funny you mention scientific research, which isn't like, biased at all. Capital S Science is capital U Unbiased.


April 26th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

It rests upon two highly debatable, if not outright wrong premises: 1- that women and men are interested in playing college level sports at the same level and percentage (roughly 50/50). And 2- that there is a fundamental right to access college level varsity sports. Both are mistaken.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

I'd be interested to hear what you think it rests upon. The law exists to address discrimination against women with regard to collegiate athletics access. It protects access by legislating that women and men have equal access to sports. The fact that males used to far outnumber women in collegiate participation is assumed to be because male administrators discriminated against women. The only evidence presented for this view was in fact, the numbers of males vs, females at the time. Just as in current times, the only concern of those who want to enforce the law is numbers, in both people and finances. So, if in fact far more men than women are interested in sports at that level, there is no evidence of discrimination. And if there is no right to college sports participation--for men or women--which I believe to be objectively true IMO (though certainly debatable) then the entire law crumbles, as it should IMO.


April 26th, 2011 at 3:12 PM ^

Well going back to your original post, there's nothing in Title IX that requires schools to have varsity sports at all, so that takes care of your second point. Your first point isn't really relevant to Title IX proponents because they see access as funding. You seem to be arguing that real access is relative as in, male students actually have less access because there's more interest and thus more competition. That's a fair and good point, but that's not the framework Title IX people use when they look at this.


April 26th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

The facts are that schools do have varsity sports, and like to have them. And they did when the law became in force. So their choice was to change access, or eliminate all sports. The second is impractical and would harm athletes of both genders, the first would harm (under this argument) some male athletes. It's silly to argue that this "takes care of" my point that the law rests upon a philosophical assumption that equal access to college sports is a right women should have. If there is no right, then there is no harm, and upon what rationale exactly can Title IX proponents argue women are harmed? Literally all of the debate at the time of the law was around the notion that women deserved the exact same access as men, and that the only way to measure this was through equal funding and/or numbers. 


April 26th, 2011 at 8:15 PM ^

<blockquote>Literally all of the debate at the time of the law was around the notion that women deserved the exact same access as men, and that the only way to measure this was through equal funding and/or numbers. </blockquote>

Wikipedia says no:

<blockquote>In the hearing there was very little mention of athletics.[2] Their focus was more specifically on the hiring and employment practices of federally financed institutions.</blockquote>

And yes, they are conferring a right to equal access to sports, but that's different from what you were saying before.

Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions about Title IX is that funding dollar amount has to be the same. There's no reason to think that's the case. Ultimately what matters is that the female athletes get the same benefits male athletes get in the same amount (gear, facilities, tutors, available scholies etc.)


April 26th, 2011 at 10:30 PM ^

In any case, I won't knock Wikipedia or you, I'll just say that that explanation is... incomplete.

I was saying precisely that they are conferring a right to equal access to sports, I didn't think could have been more clear about that, but apparently I worded it not precisely enough. This is the right I stated that I don't believe exists, although clearly the people implementing the law disagree.

With regard to funding/numbers or benefits, or with regard to any decision attempting to guarantee a certain outcome in collegiate sports, there is no rationale to do so without, back to my original comment, an assumption that there SHOULD be a roughly equal outcome with regard to male/female participation in college sports. I contend that there should not, or more precisely, that a separate outcome is due to much higher interest among men--and that is ok, as long as that outcome is not specifically due to discrimination.

Good debate, like the civility.

Feat of Clay

April 26th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

Well, I don't know about the Title IX reporting requirements.  But it is my understanding that the NCAA requires that any student who practices with a team still meets all eligibility requirements.   And so yeah, Michigan has men who are listed as participants on women's teams, but that's not driven by some loophole in Title IX that we are cleverly exploiting.  It's because the NCAA requires these practice athletes to be treated like all the other athletes.

Title IX could close this loophole tomorrow and that might change our Title IX reporting (I don't know), but it won't change the fact that a guy rowing with the women's rowing team in practice because their roster is too thin will be still be considered an "athlete" here.

Edited my comment about numbers because there are a decent number of men who help women's soccer and women's basketball with practice.

Michiganian for Life

April 26th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

"No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."

The problem is that this law has been so severely bastardized by those trying to make a name for themselves.  Nowhere does it say that men's sports should suffer because there doesn't exist equal funding for women's sports.  It simply means that should a woman's sport want to exist within the school, it cannot be denied funding on the basis of sex.  

What has happened is that people want to play the numbers game as Brian points out, and want to make the absurd claim that if the total funding for "men's sports" does not equal the total funding for "women's sports" then there is terrible inequality.  If the letter of the law was actually followed and not stretched to illogical depths, we wouldn't see men being counted as women, and entire track teams discontinued for the sake of "equality."


April 26th, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

Title IX doesn't explicitly state there should be equal funding.  I believe, however, that the courts have interpreted the law in this way - without realizing or acknowledging that one's interest level in athletics is greatly affected by one's gender.

It would be similar to suggesting that there should be equal funding for rape or pregnancy counseling for both men and women.  It's absurd.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

It's the Department of Education's manual for enforcement. Technically speaking, if Arne Duncan wanted to (and didn't fear Obama replacing him) he could change any part of the enforcement procedures or alter what violations are in themselves before he ate dinner tonight.

There have been a few court cases, but IIRC they haven't gone into policy, only the constitutionality of the original law and amendments.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

is that if you left things to "which sports have more interest," there would be the UConn and Tennessee women's basketball teams, some softball teams, and basically nothing else. You either think that's a problem based on your political leanings, or you don't.  Since Title IX was enacted, the number of women playing sports in high school and college has gone through the roof. I think that's a worthwhile accomplishment, even if it's come at some cost.  

Michiganian for Life

April 26th, 2011 at 1:13 PM ^

It isn't an "either/or" scenario.  That view has been part of problem in my opinion, where we value the end result and the numbers over the actual law and its execution.  The point of Title IX, like you said, was accomplished, to a degree, and the end result for women's sports has been great.  Unfortunately, there are some who are so focused on the actual spending numbers and atheltic scholarship numbers, that a claiming inequality where it doesn't exist.  

It doesn't have to be KEEP TITLE IX or REPEAL TITLE IX.  You can keep it as is, and stop this absurd practice of taking sports and athletics away from men to uphold the facade of equality.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

It's really easy to say "OMG TItle IX hurts mens sports AHHHH!" but let's be honest here: the benefits Title IX confers to women who  want to compete is VASTLY greater than the detriment to men. 

The u.s is a world power in women's sports, and especially in soccer and  ice hockey.  That's evidence of title IXs effect on u.s women's sports.


April 26th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

A big reason why we're a world power in women's sports is that most other countries don't even seriously compete in most of them.  This does not seem to be an issue elsewhere.  Why does the United States have to expend so much money on women's sports when virtually everyone else does not?  Is this an appropriate allocation of limited resources?


April 26th, 2011 at 6:15 PM ^

Why in fact is it good or appropriate to allocate money to women to expand their participation? Why in fact is it good to allocate resources to men? What societal good is achieved by allocating to either sex? Why indeed should society, beyond the individual decisions that families and individuals make, make any choice in this area at all? What societal or government angels are charged with deciding who gets to be disadvantaged because it's "good" that one group expand PLAYING SPORTS?


April 26th, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

Because we have a huge, diverse population, and a lot of money.  Not too many other countries can match that. And then you take away the amount of countries where women are TRULY second class citizens, or further behind in progress and just "getting out of the kitchen", as it were, and we have a huge lead on most other nations. It'd be weird if we weren't really good in a lot of women's sports. 


April 26th, 2011 at 6:17 PM ^

My god, my computer ate this 3 times and I've had to retype it.

the benefits Title IX confers to women who  want to compete is VASTLY greater than the detriment to men.
I hate this argument more than anything in the world. Who gets to decide something is right because after taking from Group A to give to Group B, the benefit to group A exceeds the detriment to Group B (by whatever math quantifies this)? Individuals that do this (and I'm not saying that you, jatlasb, are a frequent doer of this) typically don't believe their could be an opposal to their position on an issue, because it's the only position that's allowable. This is the difference between democracy and liberty. Ben Franklin agrees.
The u.s is a world power in women's sports, and especially in soccer and  ice hockey.  That's evidence of title IXs effect on u.s women's sports.
Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there'.


April 26th, 2011 at 8:24 PM ^

I'd quote some famous philosopher on "the greater good."  Alas, it's not. 


Also, I'm not sure I really want to go down this particularly deep rabbit hole about social justice and maximizing happiness in the world on a sports blog.  Even one so intellecual as this.  :) 



Wolverine In Exile

April 26th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

"is that if you left things to "which sports have more interest," there would be the UConn and Tennessee women's basketball teams, some softball teams, and basically nothing else. "

I will concede there will not be the widespread participation (forced in many instances) at tremendous financial outlay by public educational instutions who's primary goal is to educate (at least that's what its supposed to be). However, I would also argue that it will much more than "UConn Tennesee... and basically nothing else". it will be a situation like Men's hockey or Lacrosse. There will be a small number of schools who consider it a matter of pride to have a womens <insert sport here> team. They will choose to participate in Div I, Div II, or club status based on the interest generated and funding situation. The Michigan's and Stanford's and Cal's will likely fund more women's sports than other schools. But I fail to see a "right" that says women have to have fully funded scholarship sports when that's a huge financial liability for the school. There is no shame in having student run and driven club teams-- see Michigan lacrosse who worked their ass off in building a fan base and sponsor network to keep them competing at a high level. Your implication is that if there's not mandated scholarship sports for women enabled by Title iX, then women's participation will markedly decrease. I don't think most high school girls are playing sports because they're being forced to or chasing dreams of scholarships. If that picture changes from scholarships to club status, the dedicated ones will continue to play and those that aren't won't.


April 26th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

is that if you leave things up to the market and allow Division I varsity sports only in the sports that are the most profitable (or at least the ones that aren't hemorrhaging money), you'll end up with a bunch of competitive, Division I mens sports, and very few varsity, Division I womens sports.

Again, whether you think that's a problem or not depends on your political leanings, but I don't like telling female athletes that they have to play club just because the most popular sports are the ones played by men.  


April 26th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

Personally, I don't care if the teams are called "club" or "varsity,"  but I seriously question the wisdom of granting scholarships (whether partial or full) to athletes in sports that are nothing but money-losers for the athletic department.  Seriously, what is the justification for that?  We are just about the only country in the world that does this.