Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

Title IX still hasn’t tamed football

June 30, 2002


— Thirty years later, three decades after Title IX, everything has changed and nothing has changed because women now have unprecedented opportunities in college athletics and because too many men are still fighting against them.

So, happy anniversary and here's the latest lawsuit.

Title IX birthed a revolution, nothing less. In 1972, about 30,000 women and 170,000 men participated in college athletics. In the most recent NCAA figures, there were 151,000 women and 209,000 men.

Women, for the first time, got to live the college athletic dream and reap the benefits educationally, monetarily, physically, emotionally, the whole thing. The entire mindset of a nation changed. What once was a pipe dream is now a proper expectation, backed by federal law. Fathers now cheer daughters and would feel deprived if they didn't have the opportunity.

And, with it all, men's college sports programs still grew some, too.

Yet the fight continues, almost louder than ever. If someone ever tied you down and forced you to read the back-and-forth between proponents and opponents of Title IX, you would be impressed with the ability of so many people to expend so much energy talking past each other. You have real people with real complaints on both sides, aggrieved parties against aggrieved parties, and a refusal to recognize the fact they really aren't enemies.

Football is the real enemy.

Same as it ever was.

This is about football and this has always been about football. The NCAA fought Title IX from the beginning, saying the regulation just didn't recognize the economics of college sports meaning, football. Sen. John Tower, of Texas, was sent out onto the legislative front line with an amendment to exempt King Football from the law. In that momentous summer of 1972, it failed.

The people who ran college sports then had a decision to make, and in most cases, this is what they decided: Football would get absolutely everything it needs, and men's basketball would get pretty much everything it needs, and then the women's sports teams and the minor men's sports teams would be handed knives, thrown into a ring, and encouraged to defend themselves with vigor.

As part of Title IX, schools must file financial information with the Department of Education. Those forms make for some fascinating reading. Just look at the schools whose teams finished in the top 15 in last year's final Bowl Championship Series rankings. You look at the numbers and are filled with questions.

How can Oklahoma run its football factory on $7.9 million a year while Miami spends $12.6 million? How can a big state school like Illinois get by on a measly $5.9 million budget, while Texas needs $10.3 million? How can Washington State spend $5.2 million on football while Washington can spend a little more than $16 million? Anybody who has made the drive knows it seems like a million miles from Pullman to Seattle, but can it also be nearly $11 million away?

One final stat, unearthed from those filings by The Chronicle of Higher Education: Of the 115 schools with Division I-A football teams, 91 spend a larger percentage of their budget on football than they do on all women's sports combined.

This is where we are, 30 years later: big pigs at the trough, the runts fighting for the scraps. Someday, the runts will unite rather than fight each other. Only then will the work of Title IX be complete.

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