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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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Oh, yes I can.

Well, you certainly couldn't argue that docking football 15 scholarships and a couple of coaches would keep Keith Jackson and 100,000 others from having a grand old time in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon. In fact, the game would improve. The major powers wouldn't be able to stockpile recruits simply to keep the have-nots from getting them. Greater parity would generate more fan interest and, ultimately, more money—just as it has in men's basketball.

But I'm not done. I'd install spending caps too. First, I'd put caps on recruiting budgets in football and men's basketball. Recruiting costs are dollars that do no educating whatsoever. And I'd either shorten fall football practice or have the players pay their own board before school starts. How can a university justify feeding 157 people (145 players plus 12 coaches) for three weeks of practice in August, when classes haven't even started? With breakfast at $5 a head and lunch and dinner at $7.50 each, that's about $3,000 a day, $21,000 a week—more than $60,000!

No school is going to cut back scholarships or fall practice on its own. You disarm unilaterally and you gel whupped. The NCAA Presidents Commission, the posse of pointy-heads that's supposedly trying to reform college sports, needs to announce to the member schools, "O.K., we're going to cut athletics costs by 25 percent. Now pass legislation that will get that done." The NCAA appointed a Task Force on Gender Equity last April, and specific proposals should be in the task force's report, which NCAA executive director Dick Schultz expects in time for the 1993 convention.

Just what we need, more NCAA rules and regulations.

Necessary evils. And do you want another reason why they're worth it? Many of the same blowhards who bitch about Title IX use their next breath to bemoan how few Olympic medals are won by American athletes. Yet women won nine of the 11 U.S. medals in Albertville, including all five of the golds, and the climate created by Title IX certainly contributed to that. And many of the sports in which American women won medals in Barcelona—swimming, track, basketball and volleyball, for starters—wouldn't be nearly as well developed if it weren't for college programs fostered by Title IX. Yet Title IX is hardly being enforced! In other words, Uncle Eb, incompetent judging and anabolic steroids aren't keeping Americans from winning more Olympic medals, troglodytes like you are.

Sounds to me like you're endorsing reverse discrimination. You're saying a female squash player deserves a scholarship more than a male football player.

At a certain point, yes, she does. Let's go back to the physics department. When Catatonic State gives out those Junius T. Higginbotham Scholarships in quantum mechanics each year, it picks the most distinguished kids it can find. No one else. Why treat athletes any differently from students? The best female squash player on campus is more distinguished than the 70th-best football player, yet at many schools there wouldn't be a team for her to play on. Right now football is buying bench warmers. Some guys are getting room, books, board and tuition to pick splinters out of their keisters once a week.

Wait a minute. You take all that money from football and pump it into starting all those girls' teams, and you've got to hire, what, a head coach and an assistant in seven or eight sports?

No, you don't. The key is to add women's sports that can serve the largest number of participants. Sports like soccer. Track. Swimming. Softball. Lacrosse. To comply with Title IX, a school might only have to add two or three women's sports.

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