Viewpoint: It’s time to kick Title IX out of the game

Megan Grindstaff | 2014 Spring Reporter
Megan Grindstaff | 2014 Spring Reporter
Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 says, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

As a female soccer player growing up in the ’90s, Title IX was more a buzzword than a piece of legislation. At age 7, when I watched the U.S. Women’s National Team win with World Cup, I did not and could not understand how a piece of paper written by men in suits could have anything to do with the athletic success of my idols: Brianna Scurry, Julie Foudy and, naturally, Mia Hamm.

Today, I am finally able to understand the profound effect Title IX has had on the opportunity for women everywhere, myself included, to play collegiate sports. I am also able to understand that it’s time for Title IX to go.

While most people think of Title IX as the law that ensures an equal number of collegiate scholarships for men and women, athletics are just one of the ten key areas addressed by Title IX: access to higher education, career education, employment, education for pregnant and parenting students, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, technology and, of course, athletics.

When Richard Nixon signed the law into action, it was ground breaking. No piece of federal legislature had ever gone to bat for women’s social rights in that way, especially in the male dominated realm of athletics.

Over the past 42 years, Title IX opened the doors for thousands of female athletes who dreamed their whole lives of playing at the next level. Unfortunately, it has also closed the doors on countless others, particularly male athletes in non-revenue sports, which are often the first programs to go when cuts have to be made to balance male and female scholarship counts.

Title IX should be reevaluated, and the law should be rewritten with non-revenue men’s sports in mind.

Take Baylor, a major university in a nationally competitive athletic conference. Why is it that male athletes looking to attend Baylor are limited to just seven NCAA sports, while female athletes have 10 to choose from? Title IX. With football monopolizing the vast majority of male scholarships, sports such as men’s volleyball, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer and rugby are blatantly absent from our athletic department.

To add a men’s sport, there are essentially two options that preserve the scholarship balance: add an additional women’s sport, which doubles the expense, or cut men’s scholarships somewhere else in the department. With the scholarship proportions so painstakingly calculated, it is an enormous hassle both financially and bureaucratically to add a new team. Consequently, the addition of a minor sport, like wrestling, is often written off as a hopeful dream.

Meanwhile, the non-revenue men’s sports that do have programs struggle to recruit competitive rosters with limited funds. The NCAA allows 14 full scholarships for a women’s soccer program. These are divided among between 25-35 players. Men’s track and field and cross country combined are allowed 12.6 scholarships, which they must allocate to a roster that can include over 60 student-athletes. Rosters, especially at an expensive school like Baylor, then become filled with athletes who happen to be able to afford tuition, not necessarily those who run the fastest, jump the highest or throw the farthest.

According to the Department of Education’s website, the institution discourages cutting men’s sports to comply with Title IX. Dissolving men’s programs is intended to be a last resort. As an alternative, they suggest bolstering women’s programming without touching men’s sports.

However, the idea of being able to add women’s scholarships without taking away any men’s scholarships is fiscally impractical. Schools and their athletic departments work on strict budgets, which, at Baylor and schools like it, are almost exclusively funded by the football and basketball teams’ revenue. The rest of the programs — the deficit sports — run their programs from those funds, without being able to give more than a fraction of the money back to the university.
Consequently, in order to comply with Title IX, many schools take the most financially conservative route. This means cutting minor men’s sports.

In 1993, Colgate University dissolved its 106-year-old varsity baseball program, citing questions of gender equity.

Also in 1993, Cornell University cut its men’s fencing program. While the women’s program is thriving and consistently competing in the top of the Ivy League, male fencers are relegated to an open club team.

In 1994, University of California, Los Angeles cut its men’s swimming and diving program and both of its gymnastics programs. While the women’s gymnastics team returned to campus shortly thereafter, neither men’s swimming and diving nor gymnastics exist at UCLA today.

In 2011, University of Delaware turned its men’s track and field program into a club sport, leaving dozens of student-athletes without scholarships.

While the Department of Education claims cutting men’s sports is not the preferred way of complying with Title IX, it is the most practical method for universities facing gender equality issues in the athletic department.

Though the consequences were unintended, it is time for the writers and supporters of Title IX to take responsibility for the negative side effects this legislation has had on non-revenue men’s sports.

Title IX did indescribable things for women, especially those aspiring to play sports at the next level, and it did so in the name of gender equality. It is time to remember that equality is for all, not just for women.

Megan Grindstaff is a junior journalism major from Franklin, Tenn. She is a reporter for The Lariat.