Since Title IX, a federal law designed to ensure gender equity, was passed in 1972, the measure has had a marked impact on college sports teams, requiring colleges and universities to provide women with the same opportunity to play on athletic teams as their male peers. Since it passed, the number of women participating in college sports has increased by a staggering 500 percent. Sadly, though, a New York Times article reports on the disturbing number of ways that universities have found to undermine women’s sports as women have become the majority of students on many college campuses.
Because Title IX requires universities to provide women with opportunities to play sports proportional to their numbers, many schools have resorted to creatively deceptive measures in an attempt to appear as they are complying with federal standards. Some schools fill team rosters with students who didn’t know they played a sport; others count male athletes who practice with women as “female” (interestingly, it doesn’t go the other way); some even cut down men’s teams.
These tactics are partially due to lack of funds – it’s cheaper to add players to a team roster than to invest in a new sport – but also because universities will do just about anything to avoid a Department of Education investigation. Thus, despite the fact that, according to the NYT, “women make up 53 percent of the student body at Division I institutions yet only 46 percent of all athletes,” schools work hard to look as though they’ve achieved parity. And this hurts men’s teams too, since institutions are more likely to cut men’s teams than increase women’s sports, or trim down men’s rosters.
“The fraud is disheartening,” said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the senior director of advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Intercollegiate athletics are rare educational opportunities, subsidized with our tax dollars, which deliver superior lifelong returns on investment. When an athletic department engineers itself to produce only the appearance of fairness, they flout the law and cheat women.”
It’s also shockingly blatant. Universities consider female runners a “bonanza,” because they can be counted up to three times (for cross-country, indoor and outdoor track). At the University of South Florida, women are listed on the roster who told the NYT that they are not members of the team.
The results are disturbing. Universities’ tendency to double or triple-count female athletes hides the fact that they have fewer women playing sports than they should. This not only devalues women’s sports, the duplicitous measures also hurt men. Although these findings make me question the efficacy of Title IX, when universities can so easily sidestep these regulations, it’s also, frankly, depressing.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.