Title IX compliance causes skepticism, concerns at UF

By Sarah Stubbs

C0-editor 

Some coaches and student athletes are skeptical about Title IX compliance at the University of Findlay.

A UF coach says that if the University were to get audited by the NCAA, he would be concerned.

According to Women’s Sports Foundation, “Title IX of the Education Amendments act of 1972 is a short and simple law: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’”

According to Title IX, athletics are considered educational programs that do in fact receive Federal financial assistance. Therefore, high school and collegiate athletics must comply with Title IX’s equal opportunity mandate.

Nationally, there is a staggering gap that exists in athletic aid and opportunities between men and women. According to Women’s Sports Foundation, during the 2011 and 2012 school year, female athletes received 63,000 fewer opportunities at NCAA institutions than men. And for those women who did get the opportunity to compete, received a total of $183 million less in NCAA athletic scholarships less than men.

This gap is prevalent at UF, too.

According to UF’s athletic department, this is the first year that men are under 60 percent. Currently, the men are at 59 percent and the women 41 percent.

“Historically, when I got here [in 1999] our athletic aid was 75 percent male and 25 percent female. Because of Title IX and really the right thing to do, we have been slowly moving the percentage. Currently, the men are at 59 percent and the women 41 percent,” said Steve Rackley, athletic director.

Over the past 15 years at UF, the meter has only moved a total of 16 percent, Rackley said.

Rackley says that it takes a lot to balance the percentages, and that UF’s athletic department has been able to accomplish this 16 percent increase without taking money away from any male teams, but rather solely by building up other programs.

In order to help remedy the gender gap that exists, many schools opt to create new programs for women that are high in roster size to help offset the imbalance that occurs because of football. Julie Duffy’s women’s lacrosse program is the most recent testament to this method at UF.

“We are a brand new program. Our first season was in 2013. We did get added because of Title IX. That was made clear to me when I got here and in my interview process. That’s why lacrosse is getting added across the country. With lacrosse, we usually are one of the largest rosters within women’s sports. Next year we will have 33 people. So that’s kind of why it’s getting added. And it’s getting added because it’s a high money sport,” said Duffy.

Duffy explained that by calling lacrosse a “high money sport” she means that student athletes who are playing lacrosse typically come from wealthy suburban areas. Therefore, they can pay out of pocket to go to a school like UF.

In order to comply with Title IX, institutions must pass one of three tests. According to Women’s Sports Foundation, these tests are Proportionality—male and female participation in athletics must be a reflection of the respective enrollment, History and Continued Practice of Program Expansion—the institution proves that they are in the expansion process and finally Full Accommodation of Interests and Abilities—the school demonstrates that the underrepresented sex are fully accommodated.

Since the male student athlete to female student athlete athletic aid ratio is supposed to be reflective of the female to male ratio in general enrollment, UF’s gap begins to look somewhat more substantial.

According to US News Education, UF’s enrollment this year is 38 percent male and 62 percent female.

There are more women’s sports teams than men’s at UF; however, there is no female sport comparable to football, which carries 115 men.

There are four priority sports that exist in Division I and II athletics. Priority sports are fully funded by the NCAA and include football, volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. Athletes competing in these priority programs are almost always on full ride scholarships.

Title IX becomes hard to comply with because the roster sizes of these sports do not add up.

“I think we kind of lose sight of that sometimes—that there are two women’s sports that are fully funded. But the roster sizes don’t add up. That’s where we get in trouble because it’s supposed to be an equal ratio and it’s not. [UF] volleyball had 18 people on their roster this fall and basketball has at least 13 maybe or 14. That’s barely even 30 kids. So compare 30 to 130 (football and men’s basketball). It’s not a fair ratio. It should be three or four women’s teams to every men’s team. It’s not a one to one par when football is thrown into the equation. I think that’s what people forget,” said Duffy.

Women’s golf is another sport that some may label as a Title IX sport. Currently in the NCAA, women’s golf receives higher athletic aid than men’s golf does.

“The situation I’m in is I get more athletic aid for women than I get for men. So I think it’s helped us [UF] a lot. The NCAA offers a certain amount of scholarships for men and women’s golf and it’s almost two full scholarships more than what’s available for men,” said Dominic Guarnieri, golf director.

Guarnieri explains that more programs are adding women’s golf now.

“When I golfed here in the early 2000s, there were only seven or eight women’s teams. Starting next year there are going to be 13 in our conference alone,” said Guarnieri.

Additions of women’s golf programs are helping with Title IX compliance, but don’t seem to put much of a dent in the roster size gap that exists with football in the picture.

Before becoming the head swim coach at UF, Makepeace had been studying, researching and speaking about the NCAA and Title IX while earning his master’s degree in sports psychology. He also helped teach a class on sports in American culture. He says that a current trend at some Division I schools is adding women’s rowing to try to get around Title IX compliance.

“Typically what you find is that football is going to be the one that really causes problems because football will be used to balance out women’s volleyball. A lot of schools that don’t carry men’s swimming will just have women’s swimming, because that roster size is pretty high. A growing trend in the NCAA is rowing because you can find a lot of female students on a campus to try rowing out and then just quit. So you can have a rowing roster size of about 120 when the NCAA is looking for your stats. I know a lot of Division I schools have gone that route,” said Makepeace.

According to “Title IX Myths and Facts,” an article on the Women’s Sports Foundation’s website, a common misconception that occurs to justify the gender inequality that exists in aid and opportunities with women’s sports is the claim that men’s sports are the ones that are generating revenue, so they shouldn’t have to be equally funded.

The truth is that less than 12 percent of college athletic programs actually make a profit.

Duffy and Makepeace are aware of this misconception and agree that it is not a solid argument.

“There are five institutions in the whole entire country that generate revenue because of football,” said Duffy.

Rackley shares that it is especially not the case at UF, let alone any other Division II institution.

“I think a lot of people think that football and basketball are generating income, but with Division II, it’s just not true. We get crowds at both, but as far as the amount of scholarship money for those programs, there is no generated income that impacts it,” said Rackley.

Since UF is a nonrevenue generating institution in regards to athletics, and is a high achieving academic institution, academics become a factor of interest when looking at the gender gap.

Rackley says that academics and athletics are two separate entities and don’t necessarily influence each other in the realm of athletic aid.

“I can tell you that generally speaking, our student athletes as a whole perform better academically than the student body, female student athletes are generally quite a bit ahead of the other women on campus and male student athletes on the other hand, are just a tiny bit below the other men on campus. But we don’t base any scholarship aid on how well teams are doing academically,” said Rackley.

According to Rackley, the way athletic aid works at UF is the way it works just about anywhere else in Division II. The athletic department decides on an amount of money to grant each team and then from that point the coach of each team has full discretion on how that money is distributed.

Even though Rackley claims that academics and athletics are completely separate factors when it comes to athletic aid, five UF coaches that were interviewed believe there is an overlap—even the fully funded or nearly fully funded sports: football and women’s basketball.

Phil Magro, director of football operations, says that the Oiler football team devotes their energies to recruiting high academic performing student athletes so that they can save scholarship money and have some wiggle room for an athlete or two that may not be as much of an asset in the classroom as they are on the field.

“We focus a lot on academics in the recruiting process. I was out in Indiana this last week and that’s all we focused on. We focus on how they play the game obviously but also one of the biggest factors is academics—GPAs—so when I go to these schools I get this information from them,” said Magro as he pointed to several large stacks of documents stuffed in manila folders. “We are looking for guys who have a good GPA and good ACT scores that will get them money toward school so we can save our scholarships for someone with maybe a little bit lower of a GPA and test score, just from an athletic standpoint. Basically, we look for high quality kids and we look for good grades.”

Even though his women’s basketball program is almost fully funded—sitting at 9.06 scholarships instead of the NCAA Division II maximum of 10—Jim Wiedie says that academics are nearly just as important as athletic performance when he is recruiting.

“I am a coach who firmly believes there is a direct correlation between work ethic in the class room and work ethic on the court. I try and recruit players who are high achievers academically. My goal every year is for my team to finish in the Top 10 nationally in the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll,” said Wiedie.

Wiedie added that in the end, talent is going to pan out as more important because the goal in any sport is to be competitive.

According to the US Census Bureau, women comprised 56.8 percent of college students in the fall of 2012.

Since the gap in athletic aid and opportunities is so startling, it seems a little backward that men are overwhelmingly coming out on top, being that women make up the majority of college students in general.

Some coaches, especially female coaches, are concerned about how the NCAA is going about making sure there is compliance in place.

“Title IX has come in and said that we have to be equal. Yet I have been a head coach for seven years now and seven years ago they said this. Probably nine years ago they said this,” said Duffy. “Why haven’t schools been penalized for it yet? Why are they allowed to continue to just get by and keep doing what they’re doing when they’re in violation of Title IX?”

Duffy mentioned that even though the gap does upset her, she feels that Findlay knows what needs to happen to better comply with Title IX.

“I will say I think Findlay is actively aware of the situation. I think they are trying to remedy it. I truly think they are. We sat through a strategic planning meeting yesterday and you definitely can tell,” said Duffy.

Others are not convinced.

Makepeace explained that the NCAA is in a transition period right now and that within the next five years, he thinks that Title IX compliance will be actively scrutinized, including UF.

“I would be nervous that fines would be levied. But that’s just me,” said Makepeace.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahxstubbs

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