Women, men still unequal in sports despite Title IX attempts

Title IX was originally instituted when Virginia institutions denied admission to 21,000 women and no men over three years.
Several sports programs are restricted to the number of scholarships it can provide. On the contrary, MU spent $7,278,296 in scholarships for their 2009-10 football program. Maneater File Photos

The MU tennis team was forced to play its home matches away from its home courts for the past two seasons due to a glitch in the Green Tennis Center's drainage system. The team has instead been playing at Bethel Park, a public Columbia park.

The MU athletic department broke ground on a new tennis facility Sept. 20 after cracks in the outdoor courts caused water to render them unplayable. The program had a waiver signed by the Big 12 Conference in previous years to avoid renovations.

The Green Tennis Center had only four of the expected six outdoor courts. Six courts allows one court for each player to simultaneously compete in single’s matches.

The team also had to share both the courts and the locker room with the public.

"We just had a public locker room that was open to anyone who used our courts,” red-shirt and MU sophomore Annemijn Koenen said. “(But) it's becoming equal. We're getting six new outdoor courts, and we're getting a locker room that is actually our own, so we're getting there. It's a work in progress."

In the same amount of time it took the MU Athletics Department to address the cracked tennis courts, the department built a brand new men’s and women’s basketball facility from Sept. 2002 to Nov. 2004 with 104,074 bricks.

This is a direct violation of Title IX, according to the MU Office of Equity website.

According to the website, Title IX requires federally funded institutions to provide equal treatment of male and female athletes in the forms of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities.

Title IX, which was founded in 1972, prohibits gender discrimination to take place at any school funded by federal money. The law is enforced in 10 different categories in primary, secondary and post-secondary education systems.

The issue Title IX attempts to resolve came to a head after the rise in feminism in the middle of the 20th century. The century marked a prime time for the nation’s top athletes to develop into the world’s best contenders, feeding the best of the best into professional leagues and the Olympic Games.

As several of these other opportunities came knocking at the door, more athletes opted out of school and stepped directly into their athletic dreams. How were colleges expected to keep athletes in their system when they were competing against organizations that paid their players and only required them to have limited classroom education? The colleges needed to convince athletes the unparalleled benefit of gaining both an education and physical opportunity in college, but the athletes needed incentive.

The answer was scholarships. Colleges set money aside to recruit the nation's best athletes in order to win outside of the classroom. Athletes that chose to go to school could get the best of both worlds.

Thus, today’s market of college athletics was created.

As the popularity of collegiate athletic programs grew throughout the country, so did funding for these programs, specifically for men’s football and basketball. This made it difficult for sprouting women’s programs throughout the nation to receive the support they needed. A few women’s pick-up games turned into the desire for intercollegiate competition and, eventually, funding from their schools.

In 1971, the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women banded 280 women’s programs together and held its first national championships during the 1971-72 season.

The government stepped in, creating Title IX. Congress passed Title IX in 1972, prohibiting gender discrimination to take place at any school funded by federal money.

When it comes to athletics, there are three prongs for collegiate programs to meet Title IX’s criteria, the first being based on proportionality. A college must provide proportional opportunities for men and women based on their undergraduate enrollment. This means if the enrollment total is 20 percent female, women must account for 20 percent of athletic participation and funding, according to the MU Office of Equity.

MU athletics director Mike Alden wrote a column for mutigers.com in 2003 explaining why MU, controversially, does not comply with prong one.

“Proportionality stems specifically from situations where a sport is added only to meet a numerical requirement,” Alden said in the article. “In order to fund these additional teams, many institutions must simultaneously discontinue men's sports programs.”

This was the case for the Boulahanis v. Board of Regents (1999) lawsuit brought upon Illinois State University. In this case, former and prospective athletes sued the university because of the sports program policies.

ISU had 45 percent male enrollment and 55 percent female enrollment, yet male athletic participation was 32 percent higher than that of females. In order to comply with prong one, the school cut its men’s soccer program and wrestling so its male participation numbers equaled that of women’s participation.

MU senior associate athletics director Sarah Reesman acknowledged this practice still occurs today.

“Some institutions may discontinue sports programs or male scholarships in order to meet some compliance requirements while others choose to increase female opportunities,” Reesman said in an email.

Although MU chooses not to comply with prong one, the University of Arkansas does. In the past, though, UA complied with prong two, which calls for an institution to expand programs for the underrepresented sex.

However, over the years, it has been prong three, which MU chooses to comply with, that has created the most controversy. Prong three allows an athletic department to meet Title IX by effectively accommodating the abilities and interests of the underrepresented sex.

Alden wrote prong three allows MU to provide an appropriate basis to create programs that will accommodate the interests and abilities of students at an educational institute.

“Where there is genuine interest and the corresponding ability to compete at a high level, I am certainly an advocate of additional opportunities for female student-athletes,” Alden said in the column. “However, as the statistics show, the interest should be (and is currently) legitimately cultivated in girls and young women just as it has been for boys over the years. Such interest in athletics by girls continues to escalate, and MU will regularly review those interests to ensure appropriate compliance with prong three.”

Arkansas associate athletic director Tracey Stehlik believes prong three is confusing and would prefer prong two.

“For opportunities for women, I would prefer program expansion so that the over-represented sex does not have to be affected by roster management,” Stehlik said in an email.

Prong three was revised in 2010, reassessing how the survey determines interests among students. Stehlik said the revision could be beneficial.

“The new 2010 recommendations by Office of Civil Rights for prong three are an attempt to control unnecessary reduction of men's athletic opportunities and suggested that survey data take into account the interest of both sexes on campus,” Stehlik said.

Reesman said each prong does have its flaws, but Title IX has done its job in providing equality for women.

“While no remedy is perfect, there certainly has been tremendous growth in the number and quality of opportunities for girls and women in athletics, and so in that sense it has been very effective,” Reesman said.

Men’s teams also feel the repercussions of Title IX.

Johnny Eblen, an MU red-shirt freshman wrestler, said that he would not have come to MU had money not become available. He said he has no complaints of the wrestling program, but suggested more scholarship money be given to the program.

“We don't get very many scholarships, so it's just hard,” Eblen said. “A lot people who wrestle here aren't on scholarship, they just walk on."

In Boulahanis v. Board of Regents, the plaintiffs shared the same viewpoint in terms of Title IX’s effectiveness with the overrepresented sex.

“When viewed in isolation, the elimination of men’s wrestling and men’s soccer only served to decrease opportunities for men without providing any additional opportunities for women,” the plaintiff said in the suit. “As such, the plaintiffs-appellants contend that increased opportunities for women cannot be the important government objective justifying the sex-based discrimination by the (university).”

They ultimately lost the lawsuit based on the ruling that cutting the programs was compliant with the federal objective to eliminate sex-based discrimination.

According to the NCAA Gender Equity Department, it seems as if more institutions seem to be exploiting the practice of dropping programs in order to comply with Title IX, and not spending more to add programs for women.

Between the years 1988 and 2002, Division I has added 442 programs and dropped 616, creating a net loss of 174 programs.

According to the Gender Equity Department, men's basketball and football in Division I-A have taken up an increasing portion of the men's athletics budget, cutting out other men's non-revenue sports.

Football seems to be the root cause of slashing funds for men’s sports.

Reesman said in an email she does not believe exempting football from the Title IX compliance would be beneficial.

“The basic foundation of Title IX is opportunities,” Reesman said. “We need to look at all of the opportunities that are available to our male and female student-athletes.”

However, according to the most recent NCAA Gender Equity data from the 2005-06 athletic year, the average number of participants per Division 1 institution for male athletes was 269 and for female athletes was 218. Without football in the data, the difference between the two genders is less than one participant.

The total expenses allocated toward male programs was $8,653,600 with football, and for women the total amount allocated was $4,447,900, a $4,205,700 difference. Without football, the difference between the two genders garnered only a $267,900 difference.

In terms of athletically-related student aid, the difference with football included in the data was $376,200, in favor of the men. Without football, the difference was $298,500, in favor of the women.

Yet, even with the elimination of football, some discrepancies are hard to ignore.

Last season, the Missouri Tennis team spent $407,000 in total expenses for the entire tennis program along with $58,948 in operating costs for the team, while the Big 12 as an average spent $513,000 on total expenses and $91,898 in operating costs, according to AthleticScholarships.com.

The discrepancies are tolerated because prong three focuses more on participation than money.

“Prong (three) focuses on participation rates and so, the budget would not necessarily come into play,” Reesman said in an email. “We take the budget as a whole and try to provide resources appropriately.”

Koenen said, due to the statistics, she believe the underrepresented gender is only "becoming equal.”

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