Another men’s college wrestling program is discontinued and familiar accusations fly: it’s the fault of Title IX and money being spent on women’s sports. Time and again critics point to Title IX as the reason for cuts in men’s sports.
“We really believe that the Title IX blame game should end,” said Dr. Marj Snyder, chief planning and programming officer for the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF). On Sept. 24, in honor of the 35th anniversary of Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs in “The Battle of the Sexes,” the WSF released the detailed study “Who’s Playing College Sports? Money, Race and Gender.”
Dr. John Cheslock, the report’s author and an associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, repeatedly noted that his research showed clear evidence that both men’s and women’s participation have increased during the last 15 years.
“For Title IX, I present three different pieces of evidence that indicate that, on average, schools have responded to Title IX by increasing women’s participation rather than decreasing men’s participation,” Cheslock said.
He said there are no simple explanations why sports like wrestling and men’s gymnastics have declined in participation, but possible reasons could be the relatively high number of injuries and the high cost of insurance. Sports that have seen increases in participation, such as lacrosse, have students with high academic qualifications and tend to be of higher income levels, things that are of potential interest to college presidents and athletic directors.
“I argue that athletic directors and college presidents will be more likely to sponsor sports whose high school participation numbers are increasing relative to other sports, sports with low injury rates which result in lower healthcare and insurance costs, sports that do not require the school to rely heavily on international athletes in order to remain competitive and sports that help contribute to the student body’s tuition contributions, academic performance and level of diversity,” Cheslock said.
One example Cheslock offered, in terms of flawed data in previous studies, is the notion men’s decreased participation in sports relates to the growth in the number of NCAA schools. Schools added most recently have smaller athletic departments with smaller budgets, so they have less participation. He said previous research has not taken this factor into consideration — rather those participations rates were directly compared to schools with long-established and well-funded programs.
The report noted that between 1992-93 and 2000-01, the period during which Title IX was most vigorously enforced, women’s participation increased annually by 4.5 percent and men’s participation increased annually by 0.3 percent. The figures for the periods 1981-82 to 1992-93 and 2000-01 to 2004-05 are a 2.5 percent increase for women and a 0.2 percent increase for men. Men’s growth rates remained fairly stable regardless of women’s growth rates.
Growth rates in collegiate sports expenditures can largely be traced to men’s football and basketball and not women’s sports.
“It’s a lot easier to blame Title IX than it is to tell your football coach and your men’s basketball coach to do a little cost control,” said Snyder. “We would be much better served if we could figure out a way for the wrestlers and the baseball players and the men’s gymnastics to work together with the women to apply greater pressure on the system so we don’t have escalating costs like we do.”
Another issue raised in the study is the diversity of female athletes participating in college sports. It has been correctly noted that collegiate sports that have been added in recent years have less ethnic diversity.
“In the earliest years after the passage of Title IX, the growth of women’s athletics disproportionately occurred in those sports containing the highest levels of diversity,” Cheslock explained, referring to sports such as basketball, volleyball and track. “By the 1990s, many of the most diverse sports were already sponsored by most NCAA institutions, so much of the growth occurred in female sports that did not contain large numbers of athletes of color. As a result, efforts to diversify existing sports or efforts to identify additional sports containing greater diversity are needed.”
Snyder noted two possible ways of promoting greater diversity. One begins at the grassroots level of youth sports. “Increase the numbers of kids who are from diverse backgrounds in the pipeline so that by the time they get to the high school and the college level we can have more African Americans, more Asian Americans, more Hispanics who are competing in sports which traditionally had not had much diversity — say rowing or lacrosse — sports that are growing rapidly,” she said.
Another option is adding nontraditional sports that have greater diversity, such as Double Dutch (jump rope), which recently became a varsity sport in the New York City public schools.
The report also includes policy recommendations by the WSF. The entire report can be downloaded at www.womenssportsfoundation.org.
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