College Sports Teams Use Deception To Undermine Gender Equity

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.


Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

"All men are created equal..."

Aparna A.
Aparna Amrita6 years ago


Don Go
Don Go6 years ago

Reminds me of a poem, "For Every Woman" by Nancy Smith.

It's a poem about how for every woman who is denied masculinity, a man is denied a femininity or is FORCED into masculinity.


Steven Walle
Steven Walle6 years ago

Interesting. Seems like there is always contravercy with competative sports.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Stop all the college male football and crap- more money for other things.

Gemma M.

It calls my attention than men's teams get affected by this. It looks like equity problems are problems for everyone.

Heidi D.
Heidi D6 years ago

This whole issue is ridiculous. Government-mandated quotas are wrong. Women who want to play sports can play; but the fact remains that there are (a) more men who want to play sports, and (b) MANY more people who are interested in WATCHING men play sports.

Casey Loufek
Casey Loufek6 years ago

Title IX is based on numbers not demand. What do you expect a school to when it doesn't have enough female athletes available? Expecting EXACT equality is just as bad as segregation. The schools aren't undermining anything, they are attempting to cope with very flawed legislation. Are we supposed to force women to play sports? The alternative would be for the school to turn away women who weren't interested in sports, which would be completely twisting the original intent of Title IX.

This flawed legislation needs to be addressed. As long as school are put in the position of having to make real numbers line up with an imaginary target you're going to have this issue.

It pisses me off that our country could never get the ERA passed, heaven forbid women would be subject to the draft, and instead adopted this mish-mash of poorly thought out laws that bring equality to no one.

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S6 years ago

I agree with Tamara H. People who go to University should be learning, not playing games.

Cheryl H.
Cheryl H.6 years ago

Not surprising in the least. There need to be new rules and regulations, not the least of which being cutting down men's sports isn't allowed and no counting men who practice with women as women (duh?), or if they do, then women who practice with men are counted as men. Oh, and only those who can be documented to be participating in a sport during the season can be counted on the roster.