“Women aren’t born less interested in sports. Society conditions them.”

— Valerie Bonnette, Title IX consultant

By Ken Reed

Despite the tremendous gains brought about by Title IX, we unfortunately still live in a country in which female athletes continue to be treated unfairly and unjustly in the sports arena. In fact, the gap in opportunities and funding between males and females is widening today, not closing.

According to a USA Today study, for every dollar colleges and universities spent on travel, equipment and recruiting for men’s teams in recent years, they spent just 71 cents on women’s teams. Over a two-year period, colleges and universities spent nearly $125 million more for men than women in the aforementioned budget areas for the sports of basketball, baseball/softball, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, and tennis.

The USA Today analysis used revenue and expense reports from schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) — the highest level in Division I — submitted to the NCAA for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fiscal years. It’s important to note that because the study only looked at sports with comparable men’s and women’s teams, the figures above don’t include football. The gap in spending in college athletics between men’s and women’s athletic programs is even greater when football is considered.

Regarding football, as the Women’s Sports Foundation says:

“Affording special consideration to football would permit an economic justification for discrimination. This would allow an institution to say, ‘We’re sorry we can’t afford to give your daughter the same opportunity to play sports as your son because football needs more money.”

A key point to consider is that decisions to drop certain sports (male or female) reflect institutional priorities, not a Title IX mandate. The responsibility of the federal government, through Title IX, is to ensure equal opportunity, not to ensure that particular sports teams are added, dropped, or maintained. It’s university athletic directors — and their presidents — that decide to drop $450,000-a-year sports like wrestling or gymnastics in order to add an artificial turf practice field for the football team. It’s these same administrators who give 85 scholarships to college football programs when NFL teams can get by with 53 players.

As former University of Arizona President Peter Likins said:

“We have, as a national society, decided that we prefer to allocate the fair distribution of opportunities for male athletes in a peculiar way, assigning very large numbers of these opportunities to one sport (football) and correspondingly contracting the number of men’s sports we can sponsor …”

If football wants/needs special treatment, then perhaps it’s time football is separated from both the university’s non-profit umbrella and the school’s athletic department and restructured as a for-profit subsidiary of the school, like cafeterias and several other aspects of the typical university are.

“The saddest part of all of this is that Title IX has been the law for 50 years, and while enormous progress has been made, the vast majority of schools in this country – colleges and universities in this country – are violating Title IX by treating their male athletes, as a whole, way better than their female athletes, as a whole,” said Arthur Bryant, an attorney who has been litigating Title IX cases for decades. “That’s a straight-out violation of Title IX, and it needs to stop.”

Bryant is right. Gender discrimination in sports at the middle school, high school and college levels must stop.

It’s past time for the country to rededicate itself to equal opportunity for both genders in sports.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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