A front-page story in the New York Times on Tuesday highlighted USF’s longtime use of a loophole in Title IX rules, which require collegiate sports programs to have a ratio of male and female students that accurately reflects the student body.
The Times reported that USF had counted female track athletes on the rosters for all three of the school’s different running teams, which could artificially boost the number of female athletes. According to the article, some of the athletes were unaware they were on the team and others were promised perks for staying on the rosters.
Even though USF is in compliance with Title IX requirements with or without the inflated number of track athletes, according to USF Executive Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis, the University rightly announced it would no longer use the loophole and that it would address the allegations made by students.
However, the issue illustrates how USF and other universities must often rely on questionable techniques to deal with the unrealistic and idealistic goals and requirements laid out in Title IX.
There have been great strides toward greater equality for woman since Title IX was implemented in 1972, arguably during the peak of the U.S. feminist movement.
Women earn more money and promotions, have taken seats on the Supreme Court and have even run for president. According to the Times, women also make up a larger portion of college students than men on average.
But, as a result of powerful and long-standing gender roles shaping the mindsets, taste and even mannerisms of the nation’s youth from birth, men are generally more interested and involved in athletic competition, at least on the intense collegiate level, than women.
Because of idealistic motivations behind Title IX that expect an equal proportion of male and female college athletes – often resulting in more women than men if it reflects the true gender proportions – male athletes and male teams are penalized because not enough talented and interested woman want to play sports.
This doesn’t just mean that dismal women’s team rosters could limit the number of positions available for male athletes, but entire sports programs that aren’t as profitable could be eliminated entirely.
Since 1972, more than 450 colleges and universities have dropped their varsity wrestling programs, including all schools in Florida, leaving just 80 NCAA Division I teams, while 345 schools offer Division I basketball, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
College wrestling programs are outnumbered by even women’s rowing, with 144 NCAA programs, despite the fact that there are 44,000 more high school wrestlers than a decade ago and currently 750,000 youth league wrestlers, according to the Inquirer.
Women in Florida aren’t interested enough in high school wrestling, therefore male wrestlers can only wrestle for colleges’ club teams, which is often the reason why wrestling state champions travel to other states to continue their careers with a real NCAA Division I team.
It seems that in this instance, and others like it, Title IX creates the same gender discrimination it was designed to defeat.
It’s arguable, at best, that Title IX protections are still needed, as many are still convinced that women don’t have equal opportunity in sports and elsewhere.
But the provisions of Title IX, which were upheld after a lawsuit by the National Wrestling Coaches Association in 2007, must be redesigned to avoid discrimination towards men because of the realities of gender roles.
The law was certainly needed when it was implemented, but common sense, not idealism, must become the basis of gender-equality standards in collegiate sports.
Any university not in compliance with Title IX is wrong for disobeying the law, but the law is equally wrong for holding unrealistic standards that ruin college athletics for fans and athletes of sports that either don’t produce enough money or interest from female athletes.