Mailbag: Title IX and BCS Bo

Submitted by Brian on May 28th, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Hey Brian,

I was wondering if you could give me some insight on why we haven't taken the leap in going Varsity with our lacrosse programs. We appear to have one more women's sport than men's at the varsity level (women's rowing is varsity, men's rowing is club), so would that make it easier to add a men's sport under Title IX? If Lacrosse were the next sport to go varsity, would we also take the women's program?


Title IX compliance isn't based on the number of sports but the number of participants, which gives football a big overhang and usually forces everyone to carry at least one more women's sport than they do men's. For some reason, even rostered walk-ons count in Title IX calculations. Here's an ESPN article about K-State's 124-member football team that takes the stance that the problem in this scenario is lots of walk-ons and not the stupidity of counting a player who's not adding anything more than the cost of his pads to the athletic department's expenses.

Adding lacrosse as a varsity sport will necessitate the addition of a women's sport. I am not aware of any that have the organization or success that lax does, but some club team is going to get lucky.

Title IX, at least as it applies to college athletics, seems outdated to me. When 57% of college students are women the gender to be concerned about has switched, and when a sport like football takes in millions of dollars it seems like it shouldn't count at all. It's supposed to be about equal support, and football doesn't require support in many places.


Have you ever determined, if it's even possible to determine, how many national championship games Bo would have coached, if the BCS system existed while he was a coach?


Jack Turner

It will depend on what crazy mixed up BCS system you want to adopt. Since the Harris Poll didn't exist when Bo was around, you can't replicate the current system. Since that current system is the final expression of "the voters are always right," though, we can just use the AP poll as a proxy. If we're going by that, Bo would have played in the national title game in 1976, when  Michigan was #2 and had eight first-place votes. They would have played #1 Pitt.

There were a ton of close calls, though: 1989 (#3), 1986 (#4), 1985 (#5), 1978 (#5), 1977 (#4), 1974(#4), 1973 (#5), 1971 (#4 despite being 11-0). With many of those votes close and between teams will wildly varying schedules, the computers might have been able to swing Michigan into a title game in one of those years.

Hey Brian-

this thought was spurred by your mention of Boise St potentially being included in the Mtn West. Do you think that if Big 10 expansion steals Missouri & Nebraska away from the Big 12, it might lay the groundwork for TCU & Utah (maybe Boise, as well?) to step in to fill those vacated spots? Given these recent bits I've read about the Pac 10 and Big 12 working together to seal the deal on TV contracts west of the Mississippi, it seems to make sense that both leagues might be up for welcoming in the hot non-BCS schools out there. In fact, maybe the PAC-10 opens it's doors to Boise??

I know you've been critical of teams like Boise rising into the spotlight, due to strength of schedule issues. I definitely see where you're coming from, but I think it's great for the game to have teams like that step up. I do think this kind of seismic shift/realignment/expansion is an opportunity for these non-BCS teams to come to the table with the big boys and really prove their worth. Funneling teams like Boise, Utah & TCU into the 2 major conferences on the left side of the country really would make things pretty interesting, and, IMO, ends the possibility of BCS-busters, at least for awhile. Boise St joining the MWC really just continues the problems that already exist, even if the conference moves toward an automatic bcs bid. I think I'd rather have the good teams from the MWC sucked out into the BCS conferences, and have the remainder of the WAC & MWC relegated into a B-league with little chance of bursting the BCS bubble. What do you think?

Will be interesting to follow, for sure.


The way the current system is set up there is almost nothing a team like Boise State can do to actually deserve placement in the national title game. Any team from a BCS conference with one loss and a decent nonconference game or two is going to vastly exceed Boise's worthiness. One or two games against Pac-10 teams a year does not make a viable candidate when the chances of you, or any other serious national title contender, losing against the remainder of the WAC is close to zero. That's my only problem with Boise. Move them to the Mountain West and now maybe we're talking.

If we're talking about my ideal version of college football, it would be seven setups like the Pac-10 has now: ten team conferences that play a round robin. This would never happen, of course. Personally, I'd rather have the MWC as a second Big East than jamming more and more teams into big conferences with no clear winners.


Attached is a spreadsheet showing our redzone efficiency since 2003.  I have tracked various stats from the 2003 season forward and this happened to be one of them.  This is % of points scored based on 7 pts per trip.  Before the Illinois game we were right about average on offense and much better on defense (about the only thing the defense had consistently done well, thank God, otherwise things could really be ugly).  I couldn’t find the national numbers prior to 2007 so I used an average of 2007-2009 (to date).  The national numbers are assuming no 2 pt conversion and no missed xps. At that sample size I can’t imagine the other years straying too far from this figure. 


BGS 2003

National average: 69%

Offense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency Defense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency
2003 47 277 84% 2003 33 142 61%
2004 48 215 64% 2004 39 191 70%
2005 58 256 63% 2005 36 166 66%
2006 45 239 76% 2006 25 100 57%
2007 54 259 69% 2007 44 210 68%
2008 35 162 66% 2008 45 212 67%
2009 (wo/ Ill) 31 153 71% 2009 (wo/ Ill) 30 120 57%
2009 38 166 62% 2009 34 144 61%

What does this say? I'm not really sure other than maybe Red Zone efficiency isn't incredibly important. The horrible 2008 offense was not that far off the average and actually better than the 2004 and 2005 teams; the beyond horrible 2009 defense was actually considerably above average.



May 28th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

I wonder if the Big Ten has roster size limits. It seems if any conference was to limit themselves, it'd be the Big Ten. Maybe they can work out some sort of 3/5ths compromise where walk ons only count as 3/5 of a person. That seemed to work in history, if I remember correctly


May 28th, 2010 at 1:36 PM ^

Actually, it doesn't surprise me that our 09 defense was pretty good in the red zone. The problem was that they gave up way too many big plays, not that they were regularly beaten at the line of scrimmage. The ILBs and safeties in particular couldn't play in space, and there isn't nearly as much space in the red zone.


May 28th, 2010 at 1:46 PM ^

takes on the Boise uplifting fraud.  When many aggressive ("what about the OK game dipshit?") people consistently advocate the mindless trope that Boise deserves the same shot at the MNC title game as a BCS conference school, it gets wearisome.  To be clear--Boise deserves the BCS Bowl shots they get, but based upon talent level (did you know that the WAC sends fewer kids to the NFL most years than the MAC?) and strength of schedule, to do anymore is ridiculous.  Even a top 5 ranking is fraudulent IMO.

Section 1

May 28th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

What a great idea.  Eight- or ten-team leagues where all the teams play each other.  It would be great!

Just imagine; say, ten teams in the Big Ten, and Michigan would play all the other teams in the league, and also some good out of conference opponents like Navy, Missouri, South Carolina, Virgina, etc.

Oh, and how about an eight-team conference that included Nebraska, and Missouri and all of their natural rivals?  Call it something like the Big Eight.

And maybe a really tight, strong conference with all of the Texas schools.  Call it, say, the Southwest Conference, with Arkansas part of it.

The SEC could be pared down to just one really cogent division, with all of the old southern schools from the states that never had much in the way of professional sports and they could really have a helluva college football conference, with just Alabama, Auburn, LSU, etc.

Why didn't anybody think of that?  ;-)


May 28th, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

What does this say? I'm not really sure other than maybe Red Zone efficiency isn't incredibly important. The horrible 2008 offense was not that far off the average and actually better than the 2004 and 2005 teams; the beyond horrible 2009 defense was actually considerably above average.

Well, yeah, the 2008 O wasn't far off the average... They just didn't get to the RZ all that much.


May 28th, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

FYI - the 2009 #s in the table above only represent the totals thru the Illinois game.  Including the last 3 games they are:

Offense - 47 - 195 - 59%

Defense - 44 - 210 - 68%

The defense only "held" Pur/Wisc/OSU to 1 fg in 10 trips the last 3 games (9 TDs) to bring the efficiency down considerably.  The offense struggled as well. 


May 28th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

For the red zone defense, I would say that it means teams scored from outside of the red zone more often than they did in previous years. WIth as many big plays as we were giving up - that would mean the other team would probably have 1 less trip to the red zone than normal.


May 28th, 2010 at 2:37 PM ^

I think this actually shows something here. 2007 and 2008 are nearly identical on defense. More evidence for a decimated defense? 2009 numbers are skewed because I think we had so many long plays against us.

On offense it's pretty easy to see that fewer attempts and fewer points means an anemic offense that scores when it clicks.


May 28th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

I've always thought that Womens hockey and mens lax should be added together. Minn and Wisc have womens hockey and it would be  a good fit. I would figure they could accomidate it in the Yost schedule.

We have such a great mens tradition and good recruiting base for female players that i think we could be a power.

Cosmic Blue

May 28th, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

efficiency boosted by so many scores coming from outside the 20. i dont have data to back that up, but i remember lots of people walking in after huge busts in coverage



sorry, i'm way late on that comment... nm


May 29th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

I personally don't know much about lacrosse, but I'm friends with Wisconsin's new coach through my brother (from his days at MSU).

I asked him last weekend directly about why Michigan hasn't taken Lacrosse varsity and he had some good insight:

  1. It's "Michigan" so if we went varsity, we would go out and get one of the best coaches available, meaning the current coach and his staff would be out the door, so they're not in favor of it.
  2. The Midwest is a horrible place to build a program. There isn't very much exposure regionally -- even the BTN doesn't really cover it much.
  3. They would go from being a dominant club team with a few hundred fans to a bad varsity team with a few hundred fans, and probably fewer because they're not winning as much.

My buddy has been known to be full of shit at times (and when we have watched Michigan football together he is fully Sparty in his biases -- was one of the guys on my "panel" when re-watching the Notre Dame stepped-out-of-bounds call), so take his comments with a grain of salt. But considering the fan support we saw while watching the playoffs this weekend, vesus what you typically see at Michigan, I think he could have a point that we are underestimating the size of the gap between Really Excellent Club Team, and Passable Varsity Program.


May 29th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

Those arguments sound right to me, though I question the coaching issue, since UM is the type of school that would value consistency and a track record in the program at least initially.  Lacrosse is a very east-coast sport, and while it is making inroads in the state (my crappy Catholic HS had two teams), it is still in its infancy, and UM trying to break into the upper-echelon teams out east would be tough.  While I think UM would have some advantages recruiting (large east coast alumni base, national prominence, academic competition with lacrosse powers like UVa, Syracuse, JH, Duke, etc.), it would still be a major culture shock and the team would undoubtedly struggle for at least a couple of years.  I would like to see lacrosse one day become a varsity sport, but making the move right now could very well be a disaster.


June 1st, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

but if 57% of students are women, then that reinforces the point of Title IX as opposed to undermining it. The idea was supposed to be that women's sports were not simply ignored at the varsity level; if their representation on campus is increasing, if anything, that suggests that Title IX requirements should be more favorable to women, not less favorable.

Of course the problem is that Title IX simply requires schools to look at the number of opportunities for men vs. women and compare them. Ideally, schools could fund varsity programs in whatever sports there was interest, regardless of gender. One school might draw enough female athletes to have, say, a 55/45 ratio of female varsity athletes to male varsity athletes; another one might go the other direction and be 40/60 or 30/70.

The other problem is that it simply mandates opportunity, it doesn't provide funding for it. I don't think the intent was to have schools close down men's sports if they didn't have enough interest in women's sports.