The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Thoughts on College Sports: Part I, Title IX

The folks over at Frank the Tank are having an outstanding debate on various topics influencing college sports, including payment of players.  The Confidential encourages you to add that blog to your regular reading list.  But it also got the Confidential thinking about Title IX.  In fact, the Confidential proposed on major revision…

Before getting to the proposed revision, it is important to recognize that Title IX has created many opportunities for female college athletes.  The website notes this particular statistic:


Things were different. The primary physical activities for girls were cheerleading and square-dancing. Only 1 in 27 girls played high school sports. There were virtually no college scholarships for female athletes. And female college athletes received only two percent of overall athletic budgets.

While one would think that Title IX has been successful, not THAT website:

  • Schools are providing 1.3 million fewer chances for girls to play sports in high school as compared to boys. While more than half of the students at NCAA schools are women, they receive only 44% of the athletic participation opportunities.
  • Female athletes at the typical Division I-FBS (formerly Division I-A) school receive roughly: 28% of the total money spent on athletics, 31% of the recruiting dollars, and 42% of the athletic scholarship dollars.
  • In 2008, only 43% of coaches of women’s teams were women. In 1972, the number was over 90 percent.

Instead of applauding the many gains that have been made in the past 40 years, this particular site concludes that more needs to be done.  Ugh!

Here are the two main problems with Title IX (and which spills over into several other issues that will be the subject of subsequent parts to this opinion piece).

First, it is entirely absurd to believe, much less mandate, that anything in life be 50/50.  The issue with discrimination is not that things are perfectly equal.  The issue with discrimination is that things are not being made capable of being fair.  If 42% of athletic scholarship money goes to females, that is pretty darn good.  Could it be 50 or even 55%?  Sure.  But given that it has gone from 98% male to 57% male, that is a step in the right direction.  The goal of 50/50 is likely mathematically impossible to achieve and sustain, as scholarships are fluid.  Why even try for that?  “Discrimination” should be defined more loosely… such as failing to provide at least 45% of scholarship money to females.  Provide a floor, not seek to achieve 50/50 balance.  Moreover, if the best schools cost the most money, it may well be that 43% of scholarship money means 55% at the best schools and 35% at the inferior schools.  Isn’t that a general positive?  More women getting scholarships at the best universities!  Of course, the Confidential does not know that stats and perhaps it is the opposite.  But it just underscores the problem of using numbers to measure an abstract dynamic such as “discrimination,” or lack thereof.  It must go.

Second, there is another absurdity–including revenue and non-revenue sports in the calculation.  Football is 85 scholarships that often produces the product that finances the rest of all college programs.  Why is football part of the equation?  It takes 85 scholarships away from men, even though 85 men do the work to ensure that all other students have scholarships.  Football should be carved out of the mix.  The true measure of whether a learning institution is discrimination is when it treats similarly situated males and females differently.  The football players pay for themselves and should be out-of-the mix.  But, instead of treating them equally, schools are giving 85 less scholarships to non-revenue male sports participants than non-revenue female sports participants.  Thus, Title IX does not end discrimination, it mandates discrimination against men–requiring a school to pay far more to women in terms of net-loss scholarships than men.  Two wrongs do not make a right, nor do they remedy historical patterns.  This is not fairness by any definition.

A better solution to Title IX regarding sports would be this framework of a very simple law (attempting to avoid legalese):

A. The goal of Title IX and Athletics is to end discriminatory practices.

B. A “qualifying scholarship” is a scholarship given to a student to participate in a sport that does not generate sufficient revenue to cover its expenses.

C. A college football program in the FBS and FCS divisions does not issue “qualifying scholarships.”

D. There is a rebuttable presumption of discrimination when a school does not offer a substantially similar number of “qualifying scholarships” to females.

E.  “Substantially similar” is defined as the greater of (a) 45%; or (b) the percentage of female students for the preceding 5 years, less 5%.  For (b), if a school is 55% female, it should offer 50% of its qualifying scholarships to females.

An argument could be made that mens basketball should be excluded because it is also a revenue sport.  However, most schools offer womens basketball, which may or may not be a revenue sport.  The simpler method is to just allow those programs to cancel each other out.

This revised Title IX definition would look solely to whether the school is paying for the same number of scholarships.  Because football players generate more revenue than their scholarships cost, those scholarships do not count.  Nor should they.  Football enables the other sports.  If football were outlawed for some reason, sports would be cut for all genders.  Also, by setting a floor to avoid discrimination, this avoids a quixotic attempt to try to find a 50/50 balance.

What do you think?  Are we on to something here?

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts on College Sports: Part I, Title IX

  1. Just exclude football and balance the rest – I’d be fine with that.

    • Bostonway on said:

      Hokie, I’m beginning to believe you are right… FB takes so many players, it just skews the T9 numbers way-off.

      • That’s exactly the point of my article. Stop counting football and establish a floor as a goal.

        • Bostonway on said:

          Yes, and a well-done article! I’m sure many conclude that it is reasonable to ‘not count FB’ in T9 participation numbers. However, I can see the PC-forces in the NCAA and on campuses not giving this (good) idea even a glance! What do you think?

        • There are many reasons why football is an exceptional sport and needs to be treated as such. I think that is part of what is behind this Division 4 talk.

  2. Title IX does not require 50/50 balance. It requires a proportional balance.

    That being said, Title IX is an unfunded mandate. You have to pay for those scholarships and expenses somehow.

    • Bostonway on said:

      And with more females attending 4-year colleges than males, this ‘proportional balance’ becomes all the more difficult to deal with.

  3. Bostonway on said:

    I’m all for women’s college sports (I have a daughter). However, as with most ‘socially engineered / equal opportunity’ initiatives, they work well in theory but not in reality. Many D2-3 schools can’t even ‘field’ enough players for some of their (new) women’s teams. Yet, by T9 rules (proportional to the female student population), these ‘little interest’ women’s teams must fully funded and in-place. So, schools drop men’s teams and use the $’s. Got to be a better way!

    • M. Caffrey on said:

      I agree that it’s really a shame that some schools have to drop men’s non-revenue sports in favor of women’s non-revenue sports. It would seem that Title IX should be about creating opportunities, not taking them away.

      • Bostonway on said:

        It’s not that I favor men’s (non-revenue) sports to women’s. However, some of these men’s teams have been in-place and competing for 100 or so years! Hate to see these sports traditions simply dropped just to meet T9 %’s.

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