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Title IX: Women’s Athletic Teams Are Not Eliminating Men’s Teams

Title IX Athletes

In 1972, an amendment was made that would forever change athletics: Title IX.

When I was in my freshman year at Idaho State University, I took a class that introduced some of the topics that would be important in developing our futures in the field of athletics. When Title IX was introduced, immediately students started listing off what they knew about it. One of the statements was:

“Title IX is just cutting sports for men so women can be involved too. That way the school won’t get fined.”

As the highly opinionated person I am, immediately I shut down that statement with many of the details I will offer below. But the fact remains that many people, athletes included, are misinformed about what Title IX actually is, and does, for universities and their female athletes.

The United States Department of Education defines the Title IX Amendment as follows:

Title IX’s purpose is to alleviate discrimination based on sex in the education system. Key areas mentioned are recruitment, admissions, counseling, financial assistance, and athletics. This amendment forever changed the athletics horizon for women beginning in kindergarten and spanning to the collegiate level.

Once Title IX was passed, schools across the country were asked to alter their athletic department in order to comply. To be in compliance means that a university must pass the three pronged test. Economics professor Daniel Marburgher and Olympian Nancy Hoghead-Maker identify these prongs as:

1. Equal opportunities to participate in sports

2. An equitable allocation of scholarship monies

3. And/or equal treatment in all aspects of athletics

All aspects of athletics are impacted by Title IX. That includes literally everything from medical treatment to travel, to equipment, to facilities. Although Title IX includes everything, to be in "compliance" a university only has to meet one of the three prongs. The main prong universities tend to focus upon is prong #1: equal opportunities to participate in sports; the rule that the percentage of male and female athletes should be proportionate to the percentage of male and female students enrolled at the school.

If this is not the case, the school should expand opportunities for female athletes. As Marburgher and Hogshead-Maker note, this is because their gender is usually the one excluded from sports, and so therefore the schools should increase sports for women so that it is meeting the interest of female athletes.

In theory, universities all across the nation should be in compliance with Title IX. Of course, although schools are asked to increase participation by women, compliance can be achieved by either increasing women’s sports or reducing men’s sports. That means that when a sport for men is cut, people assume it must be that Title IX is to blame. As was the case in my college course, many people are under the distinct impression that men’s sports are suffering because of women’s sports.

This isn’t true, however. And how do we know this? In 2013, Susan L. Averett and Sarah M. Estelle offered a study of Title IX compliance. Of the 1,743 schools in their panel study, 75% of those schools had at least a continuous three percent noncompliance rate. What does that mean?

Most universities are not in compliance! Yes. More than 40 years later, most schools are not complying with Title IX. Therefore, schools cannot argue they are cutting men's programs to be in compliance because they are still not in compliance!

So why do universities cut men's programs? Here is a simple explanation: The smaller revenue producing sports are being cut to raise money for the big time revenue sports.

In theory, big time revenue sports (i.e. football and men's basketball) drive the revenues of an athletic department. So these programs cannot be cut to achieve proportionality. Women's sports -- because of Title IX -- also can't be cut. Therefore, it must be that schools must cut non-revenue men's sports to achieve proportionality.

It is a great story. But it is just a story. Again we turn to the work of Marburger and Hogshead-Makar. First, there actually was an increase in number of men’s sports from 1978 to 1996 in the Division III level. Interestingly enough, it is only at the Division I level that men’s sports see any decline.

Why would Division I schools want to cut men's sports? Again, compliance can't be the reason because they are not in compliance. So we are left with the original explanation: schools are cutting these programs so that they have more money to spend on the major revenue sports.

So next time you see your favorite men's sport cut, don't blame women. Blame the fact that athletic directors have to put all their eggs in the basket that contains the men’s moneymaking teams. Smaller men's sports are being cut to feed that beast; women's sports --and Title IX-- are not to blame!

You can follow the author of this article on Twitter at @katieeliselee.

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