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Title IX working, but isn't perfect



Published: Tue, February 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



This week's debate over Title IX has rekindled the debate of attempting to decide if one sport is more important than another.

At Youngstown State, for example, there is a women's soccer program, but not a men's team. There is a women's swimming and diving squad, but not a men's team.

There used to be wrestling, but, like dozens of other universities and colleges around the country, that program was discontinued some time ago.

Critics of Title IX argue that football should not be considered part of the equation; that there is no women's sport that requires a similar number of participants.

There's some validity to that argument.

On the other hand

Proponents of Title IX will counter with their belief that college football is grossly over-financed. In Division I-A, for example, teams are permitted as many as 85 scholarship players. That means every position, including kickers and punters, could be filled three-deep and there would still be 13 more scholarships to be used.

By comparison, baseball is limited to 11.78 total scholarships. A team may carry a roster size that numbers 30 or more, meaning many players are on what is called a partial scholarship. Why not, ask Title IX proponents, move some of the football scholarships to other sports?

There's something to be said for that, as well.

It's not that football is necessarily a more important sport than any other (and, yes, I realize that statement is considered sacrilege among many of you readers) but there are a couple of reasons that football scholarships haven't been cut in the last 10 years.

For one, football is the cash cow for many programs. At Ohio State, for example, the football program not only pays for its own expenses, but virtually all of the other sports programs at the university AND the intramural program.

For another, the football coaches lobby within the NCAA has a greater stranglehold on policy-making than any other group.

BCS rules the roost

Digging even deeper into the power hierarchy of NCAA football, the so-called "power conferences" that rule the Bowl Championship Series have incredible say-so over the policies that are enacted.

It's a case of might makes right; in this particular situation, "might" translates into "money."

That might not be morally or ethically correct, but it's been that way for many, many years. Breaking that decades-old "old boys network" is easier said than done.

Still, doesn't there seem to be a problem when one sees the following:

UWomen's soccer is allotted 12 scholarships; men's soccer has 9.9.

UWomen's cross country and track and field has 18 scholarships, while the men's programs have 12.69.

UWomen's swimming has 14 scholarships and men's swimming has 9.9.

UWomen's equestrian is permitted 15 scholarships and women's rowing is allotted 20. By comparison, men's basketball is given 13 scholarships.

Clearly, there are problems with the current system. Title IX has worked to some extent; without it, there would be few, if any, institutions that would feel compelled to provide equal facilities and opportunities for women student-athletes.

But it is certainly not a perfect system; hence the commission that Thursday presented its recommendations for changes to the law.

It took far too long for such a body to be put in place. What should take place is a regular review of the legislation -- what is working, what aspects need tweaked -- to make Title IX the catalyst for equal opportunity that its proponents first envisioned.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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