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The Slow Track
Alexander Wolff
September 28, 1992
Two decades have elapsed since Title IX banned gender discrimination in federally funded schools, yet equity for women in high school and college sports remains elusive
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September 28, 1992

The Slow Track

Two decades have elapsed since Title IX banned gender discrimination in federally funded schools, yet equity for women in high school and college sports remains elusive

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Please. Anywhere there's a club sport, you can infer more than enough interest to justify a varsity sport, and right now there are hundreds of women's club teams around the country just begging for varsity status. What college athlete wouldn't prefer to have a first-class coach, a challenging schedule and scholarship support? Of course, if you do such non-compliant things as force the women to practice at insane times and prevent coaches from recruiting, well, no, there might not be much desire to play. But the interest is there, and ability will follow if you're willing to pay enough to hire a coach who won't have to moonlight as an Amway distributor to make ends meet.

But these suffragettes want half of all athletes to be female. That's way out of line. There are always going to be more male athletes because of football.

Well, excuuuse me. I'd always thought there were two sexes, and now you're telling me there are three: male, female and football. C'mon, Uncle Eb. Just because there's no sport for women like football—no sport with a cast of thousands—you can't deny there are many women interested in playing the sports women do play.

Schools have to get on the stick and provide the opportunities. Washington State did, even if it had to be prodded by the courts (box). For the past couple of years the Cougars' percentage of female athletes has been in line with its percentage of female students.

It's easy for you to say schools should just add teams. But this is no time for the ladies to be agitating for new sports. Goodness, look at the deficits some schools are facing.

I'm going to assume you agree that it won't do to say, "I'd rather not be racist or sexist, but, gee, I just can't afford to be otherwise." During tough times it's all the more important to sit down and justify every penny you spend. You know how much the Seton Hall men's basketball team spent on a single dinner during the NCAA tournament last March? Three thousand dollars! The Kentucky men's team recently sent an assistant coach to the Far East simply to scout prospects in a junior college tournament. And football? For a bowl game you need hundreds of thousands of dollars just to fly and lodge an entourage for a week.

Well, a lot of that's booster money, raised privately.

Doesn't matter. When investigators from the Office for Civil Rights take up a Title IX case, they don't care what pedigree the money has. Women should be treated equitably.

Well, specifically, what would you do?

I'd begin with football. It's a bloated bovine treated like a sacred cow, with operating expenses that at a typical football school are more than those of all other men's and women's sports combined. A Division I-A team devours 92 scholarships and pays its coaching staff roughly $500,000. Right now most major conferences will let you take only 65 players to an away game. So why do you need 145 on your roster? Don't tell me you can't make do with 90. NFL teams make do with 47! You can't tell me it's more valuable educationally to have a fifth tier on the football depth chart than to have a women's softball team.

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