From the Edge: Lay off Title IX

Honestly fellas, it’ll be OK
For those who couldn’t make it out to the Title IX forum earlier this week at Gavilan – judging by the crowd, that’s about one out of every one of you – let me enlighten you on this issue.

Just kidding. No, really – I’m kidding.

Whenever someone offers to “enlighten” me on a certain issue, I usually have the urge to knock that condescending smirk right off their face.

So I’m not coming to you as someone who pretends to know everything about this sometimes-controversial issue or as someone who pretends like good people can’t disagree on the matter at hand.

I’m actually coming to you as someone who couldn’t sit through an entire WNBA game without being heavily medicated. I’m coming to you as someone who becomes a bit queasy at the thought of the LPGA or extreme women libbers or Cheryl Miller.

I’m simply coming to you as a sports nut who doesn’t blame Title IX for every men’s college sport that is cut. For every stupid decision made by college athletic departments. For every skyrocketing football ticket price at State U.

According to numerous studies (see womensportsfoundation.org for a comprehensive list), girls who participate in sports have higher levels of confidence, stronger self-images, lower levels of depression, are less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy and are more likely to get better grades and graduate from high school.

When the law was passed in 1972, one out of every 27 high school girls played a sport. Today the ratio is one out of every 2.5. College scholarship money that was all but non-existent and has now reached nearly $400 million.

Yet still, three decades later, an estimated 80 percent of all schools and colleges are not close to being in compliance, despite the law’s relatively easy three-pronged test.

Women make up 53 percent of the college population in this country, yet the NCAA reports women’s athletics receives just 42 percent of scholarships ($133 million less than men), 36 percent of athletic expenditures and 32 percent of recruitment spending.

Nonetheless, the law is still under constant attack. Presidential panels are formed to “examine” the issue. Athletic directors throw pity parties over stretched budgets. College wrestling coaches bring lawsuit after lawsuit.

Court after court determines there are no quotas involved with Title IX and that it’s still just and necessary, yet myth after myth continues to get thrown around.

The biggest myth, of course – and the only one I have room to rant about – is that Title IX has caused the death of some men’s college sports, particularly wrestling, swimming and gymnastics.

Ridiculous.

“Title IX has been used as an excuse to close these programs,” NCAA president Myles Brand said in a recent speech. “It is not the reason.”

You want to know the reason? Blame it on what Myles calls the “arms race,” which is taking place right now in college football.

It’s no coincidence that most of those sports being dropped are at “football schools” – schools that compete with one another for tens of millions of dollars in TV, bowl and other revenues.

Such schools have football programs that pay to keep their players in a hotel before HOME games. They spend and spend so they can get a better video-editing machine. Or a better practice facility. Or a better coach.

Have you seen the coaching salaries lately? In college football alone, 23 coaches make over $1 million. Throw in incentives and the number increases. In many states, these guys are literally the highest paid state employee.

At most large universities, they make more than the president – and infinitely more than any professor.

Even up the road at Berkeley – BERKELEY, for God’s sake – they’re ready to shell out millions to retain coaching whiz Jeff Tedford and are soon expected to start a stadium renovation project estimated at (please sit down) a cool $140 million.

I’ve heard of “keeping up with the Joneses,” but this is just getting whacky. It’s out of control.

And contrary to popular belief, most football programs in this country do not make money, and they certainly don’t make enough to fund all the other sports on campus.

Of course, when these universities and athletic programs find themselves in a financial crisis, the small men’s sports are always the first to go. They’re expendable. Hey, just blame it on Title IX – just intone gravely that you’ve been forced by the law to make cuts.

Spare me. Instead of cutting men’s wrestling and gymnastics, how about balancing it out by giving women 20 of your school’s football scholarships?

Honestly, do they really need 85 players suited up? Does every fourth-stringer need a full scholarship? How is that NFL teams get by with a measly 53-man roster, yet the college coaches throw out apocalyptic predictions at the mere mention of something below 85.

Look, I love college football. I love it more than any other sport. As both a diehard fan and student, I’ve lived and died with the football team of one of those pigskin-crazy places, the University of Tennessee.

Believe me, I don’t underestimate the positive impact college football can have on a university – from morale to donations to a whole lot in between.

But don’t tell me major programs can’t survive a few changes. Don’t tell me they can’t cut away some of that excess fat and share it with their fellow campus sports.

And when and if those fellow campus sports get cut, most certainly don’t tell me it’s because of Title IX.

We college football fans know better.

Brett Edgerton is a columnist for South Valley Newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected]

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