- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association is whining again, dispensing its Marxist rhetoric under the guise of Title IX, the 1972 Federal law that imposed a kind of socialistic charity on college athletic departments around the country.
Capitalism, of course, won the economic war of the last century, won in a landslide, to be honest, and Karl Marx's vision was shown to be misguided on so many levels, plus bloody and oppressive, as it removed initiative from the masses and installed a social order that celebrated the card-carrying true believers.
Members of the WBCA subculture are the true believers, most of them anyway, and they only see what they want to see, which is a lack of Benjamins compared to those in men's basketball.
They pretend to be strong (strong), invincible (invincible), in the spirit of Helen Reddy's anthem, only they don't roar. They just nag.
They released their customary findings this week, lamenting the economic disparity between the men's and women's basketball programs at the Division I level. They ask that you suspend the nation's capitalistic tenets out of moral imperative. Well, they don't really ask. The request is implied, laced in a threat. If you are not inclined to genuflect in front of their political agenda, then you are a woman-hating male pig who is trapped in the horror of the patriarchal '50s.
The charge does not have to be accurate. The charge, as these heavy-handed charges go, is powerful enough. No so-called enlightened male of the new millennium wants to be reduced to saying, "Some of my best relationships, professionally as well as personally, have been with women." That sounds guilty, desperate, something out of the civil rights struggle of the '60s.
So the WBCA trots out its numbers, and the numbers do not lie. The coaches in men's basketball earn an average of nearly $30,000 a year more in base salary than the coaches in women's basketball, specifically $115,586 to $86,119. The men's programs also receive significantly more operating revenue than the women's programs, as it pertains to recruiting, travel and marketing.
No, the numbers do not lie. They fairly reflect the battle before athletic departments that function in the marketplace of profit-margin lines while being compelled to meet the feel-good properties of Title IX.
An athletic director must ask, how much money should we throw down the black hole of women's basketball after the basics have been met, meaning a coaching staff is in place to preside over the scholarship-funded program?
Should an athletic director at University X commit all the way, bleeding the coffers to go for it, while knowing the team attracts 300 spectators a game and merits a couple of paragraphs in the local newspapers? What might a deeper commitment to the program produce: a stronger team, an increase to 500 spectators a game and more favorable publicity? Is that really worth the expenditure?
Some men's programs in the minor sports are eliminated as a result of Title IX, which amounts to one charity case being exchanged for another, the tears misplaced for one as the other.
The WBCA fails to acknowledge the cold, unshakable numbers and truths, and the dilemma that goes with them. The WBCA also fails to acknowledge the obvious. Its game is not very good, with a few exceptions. Its game is perhaps a generation away from appealing to the true basketball connoisseur.
It's not that women can't play the game in delightful fashion. A few do. They are the ones who, in the offseason, play the game in the street and in the gyms filled with men. They are the ones who, through repetition and sweat, pick up the nuances of the game in a nonformal environment. There is an axiom in basketball. Teams are made in the winter. Players are made in the summer.
Jackie Stiles is a self-made player who captivated the women's game last winter. Her workouts became the stuff of legend at Southwest Missouri State, and it showed in her 40-minute assignments with the team.
Her uncanny feel for the game, plus just an ability to knock down shots, was not the product of insightful coaching. Her basketball self was the product of hard work, generated on her time. What the coach did and it was no small thing was encourage the star player to be all she could be. If that meant she took 25 shots a game and disrupted the egalitarian mindset, so be it.
Why should Stiles have to surrender five shots a game to the No. 4 player on the team and three shots to the No. 5 player just to make everyone feel better? Wasn't she the one sneaking into the gym to shoot 1,000 practice shots a day? Wouldn't the shooting percentages, over the long haul, be higher with her than with someone less committed? Isn't that how the game works at its highest level? It made sense that Michael Jordan took 25 shots a game and Luc Longley was relegated to a couple of shots a game.
Stiles, though, is merely one player in women's basketball, and an oddball at that, which is her beauty. The gyms and playgrounds, locally and beyond, do not fill up with women. In private, when the thought police are not around, the coaches in the women's game bemoan the lack of passion and commitment in their players. They also understand women are wired differently from men, which is not a bad thing.
There is considerably more to life than bouncing an orange ball. Why is the opportunity to bounce an orange ball in college considered so essential to the sisterhood? Not to trivialize the free education that goes with bouncing an orange ball, but could a life in college be better utilized if there were no obligations to the orange ball? The sisterhood feeds off the cry of opportunity, and it makes sense if you pause to consider the sisterhood's perspective, which is a highly livable base salary of $86,119 and the blackmail-induced increases ahead.
The WBCA is looking to have it both ways. The sisters want all the financial perks that go to the men, although their game does not merit it. The irony is that if their game did merit it, many would be out of jobs, unable to justify their peculiar form of mediocrity.
They are at their best when no one is looking too hard, and judging by their meager television numbers, they attract only an audience of shut-ins and those partial to the viewing equivalent of a root canal. It mostly adds up to a lot of nothing, time unwisely spent, but maybe it is preferable to the vapidness of "Sex and the City."
This is not about dunking the ball either. The WBCA misses the point there, too. This is about playing the game with a modicum of competence. This is about the game's fundamentals. All competition is relative, regardless of gender and classification. You don't attend a high school game involving boys expecting to see Shaquille O'Neal. Yet that doesn't make the contest less gripping to a purist, so long as the players and coaches have half a clue.
And God bless Cynthia Cooper, the best there was. Her successors are out there somewhere, possibly in grade school, in numbers that can elevate the sport.
For now, a typical women's game and I've seen too many women's games in person and on satellite dish is a mind-numbing ordeal that should come with a brown paper bag, either to be worn over the head or used to stem the reflexive urge to hyperventilate.
All too many players have a hard time passing the ball, making a layup, seeing the floor and knowing it's not smart to turn into three defenders.
Or as one women's basketball player beyond the Beltway put it following a game last season: "The whole game, the 10 players on the floor were running around like chickens with their heads cut off."
Her team won the game, by the way.
The players themselves, at least the ones I've known over the years, remarkably enough, do not subscribe to the plaintive exhortations of the sisterhood, perhaps because they came along after 1972 and must play under the tortured ends of the law.
They see where their game is. There are not enough good players to fill the rosters of the 316 Division I women's basketball programs. Maybe 100 Division I women's programs would be about right. Maybe, as the men do in football, women's basketball could be split into a second classification at the Division I level. This they know: UConn 101, Long Island 29 in the first round of the NCAA tournament is a sad and embarrassing commentary on the state of the game.
This they also know: The WBCA is peddling nonsense, sticking to its crazy economic theories and, in the end, doing the game a disservice.
The WBCA's version of the game is modest at best, unworthy of a tough examination until the sisters revert to their woe-is-us spiel.
Hey, sisters, use some of that energy to improve your grasp of the game. You just might help yourself, your players and the game.

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