Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Men's sports and Title IX

Universities complying with Title IX by cutting smaller, non-revenue men's sports is not new. In fact, I always have thought of it as a brilliant strategy. The university cuts small men's sports with impunity, able to claim that its hands are tied, that it has to do this to ensure Title IX compliance, and that if anyone is to blame, it is Title IX (this argument undergirds many of the new arguments to "reform" Title IX). The strategy sets small men's sports against women's sports, even though they are similarly situated in all of this. They get put in a supposed zero-sum game. Meanwhile, schools continues to funnel a disproportionate amount of athletic funds to football and men's basketball (an average of 78 % according to one women's-sports advocate, although I have no way of knowing if that number is accurate).

But it is back in the public eye again, with the story in Sundays New York Times about the University of Delaware cutting its men's track program in order to ensure future compliance with Title IX, even though there is no present threat or risk of non-compliance or a lawsuit (Delaware is about to add a women's golf team). Instead, several track team members have filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education (headed, by the way, by a former law school classmate), claiming the decision to cut their program was gender-discriminatory.

I was cheered to read one comment in The Times story, from a former captain of the Delaware track team, who is quoted as saying "How did we ever get to a place where a program that is supposed to be about creating opportunities for women is now being used in a way to create no opportunities for women and to cut men?" He clearly gets it.