A recent New York Times report revealed that many NCAA Division I athletic departments are unethically counting male practice players for women’s sports teams as women for Title IX compliance reporting purposes.

Universities and colleges must report their male and female athletic participation numbers each year to the Department of Education.  To avoid public embarrassment and possible lawsuits, a growing number of universities and colleges are doing end-runs around Title IX.  It’s a classic case of gaming the system.

Another popular tactic of some schools is to artificially pad the size of rosters for women’s sports in order to appear closer to compliance with Title IX than they really are.  For example, at the University of South Florida more than half of the women on the cross country roster didn’t compete in a single race in 2009.  Many of the women on the roster didn’t even know they were on the cross country team.

Schools call these tactics “roster management.”  Last year, a federal judge ruled that Quinnipiac University in Connecticut had violated Title IX by utilizing a variety of questionable practices, including requiring that women’s cross country runners join the indoor and outdoor track teams so they could be counted three times on Title IX compliance reports.

A 2010 Office for Civil Rights investigation concluded that the University of California, Irvine’s women’s indoor track team was a ruse, and as such, Irvine was not complying with Title IX.  Irvine’s women’s indoor track team competed in just one meet per year and several women on the roster “vigorously stated” that they were not on the team.

New York Times sports columnist George Vescey, in discussing the Title IX chicanery employed by athletic departments across the country, wrote, “These tactics smack of voter registration drives that included a stroll through a hallowed cemetery, jotting down the names of the dearly departed who presumably would still love to have their votes counted.”

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic swimmer and the senior director of advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, said, “The fraud is disheartening.  Intercollegiate athletics are rare educational opportunities, subsidized with our tax dollars, which deliver superior lifelong returns on investment.  When an athletic department engineers itself to produce only the appearance of fairness they flout the law and cheat women.”

In an official response to the New York Times report, the Women’s Sports Foundation said, “As long as intercollegiate athletics is generously supported with our tax dollars, these scarce educational opportunities should be allocated fairly and equitably between our children.”

The League of Fans believes we need to do all we can to protect and enforce Title IX.  If not, Title IX violations and weak enforcement of the law will undermine our progress toward equity in sports for all Americans.  As such, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) must be pressured to aggressively enforce Title IX and improve education regarding the law.

Ken Reed, Director & Senior Analyst, League of Fans

[email protected]


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