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Use a Scalpel, Not an Ax
Ivan Maisel
April 17, 2000
Title IX need not be a death sentence for men's minor sports
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April 17, 2000

Use A Scalpel, Not An Ax

Title IX need not be a death sentence for men's minor sports

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In the major universities' continuing efforts to comply with the letter of Title IX but not the spirit, two more teams have been put out of business by their schools. The Brigham Young men's gymnastics team and the Miami men's swimming and diving team, each of which has a rich tradition of success, are being sacrificed to meet the standard of proportionality. That's the part of Title IX stipulating that the ratio of female to male athletes on campus—and the resources allotted to them—must closely mirror the ratio of female to male students. So many universities have euthanized successful men's programs in recent years that news of the latest casualties made as small a ripple as a dive by Greg Louganis (All-America, Miami, 1979).

Optimists say schools are merely dragging their feet where once they dragged their knuckles. But a study published in the April 7 Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that the colleges are more intent on making small steps toward gender equity than in achieving the goal itself. The 311 schools in the study are narrowing the proportional gap in the overall number of athletes (42% are women) and in the budgets for scholarship dollars (42%). However, the wide disparity in the dollars spent on programs' underpinnings—recruiting budgets (31% spent on women), coaching salaries (34%) and total operating expenses (33%)—implies that there's plenty of fat to trim in men's sports before a school has to cut its swim team.

The way to enhance women's sports without killing men's programs is as obvious as it is politically unpalatable: arms control talks. Football coaches insist that the 85-scholarship limit is their absolute minimum. They might be believed if their predecessors hadn't said the same thing when the number was 105 and again when it was 95. Coaches say any further cuts will affect the quality of the game, a standard important only to them: As long as Michigan beats Ohio State, no one with a bureau full of maize and blue cares about scholarships. If football's limit were 75, those 10 extra scholarships could keep alive a minor sport or two. Having seven football assistant coaches instead of nine could pay for two swimming coaches. There might even be enough to spare to keep the pommel horses out of mothballs.