- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2002

Some men's college sports face extinction under a zealous Clinton administration policy that requires team slots even for women who don't want to play, charges a lawsuit seeking federal court intervention.
While the National Wrestling Coaches Association lawsuit went to court, the National Collegiate Athletic Association last week was celebrating the 30th anniversary of Title IX at a Crystal City seminar.
The Education Department won't discuss the NWCA complaint, but a formal government reply brief is due Thursday in a case designed "to protect intercollegiate and scholastic athletic opportunities and teams from further elimination caused by the unlawful rules."
"That's just downright un-American," lawyer Lawrence J. Joseph said of federal quotas for male and female participants within college athletic programs that included many times more women today than when the law was passed in 1972.
The NCAA won't comment but says the sex gap in sports has closed from 4.7 men for every woman athlete in 1972 to 1.4 men for each woman in 2001. The number of women in college sports jumped in those three decades from 29,977 to 150,916 by NCAA count.
Many NCAA seminar speakers blamed imbalances on huge football squads and suggested reducing the sizes of such teams instead of eliminating wrestling, track, tennis or gymnastics outright.
"There are a number of athletes out there who never get their uniform dirty," said Marilyn McNeil, athletic director of New Jersey's Monmouth University, who proposes cutting the school's football squad from 92 to 88 players.
Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said blaming Title IX for cutting men's sports "pits the victims against the victims" men who lose teams against women who never had them.
"High school female athletic participation has increased by over 800 percent, while collegiate female athletic participation has grown by 350 percent, but they must count actual participants, not ghosts," she said Friday. "Women still have 30 percent fewer opportunities and less scholarship money, while the football team is laughing all the way to the bank."
The wrestling coaches' lawsuit in D.C. federal court employs a General Accounting Office tally that shows more than 350 men's teams abolished to comply with Title IX. About half were wrestling squads.
Supporters of affected programs who joined NWCA as plaintiffs included the Committee to Save Bucknell Wrestling, the Marquette Wrestling Club and the Yale Wrestling Association.
In May 2001, Bucknell dropped wrestling because 48.7 percent of students were female while only 41.9 percent of student athletes were female, the lawsuit said. Marquette followed suit a month later. Yale cut its wrestling program to club status in 1991.
The court complaint hinged on a 1996 "clarification" by Norma V. Cantu, the Education Department assistant secretary for civil rights whose affirmative-action racial policy for a Texas law school was so aggressive that the Clinton Justice Department disavowed it.
Title IX's original regulations required "equal athletic opportunities" tailored to both sexes' "interests and abilities."
The 1996 revised guidance said it no longer was enough to provide an equal number of "opportunities" for each sex and required officials to "count actual athletes because participation opportunities must be real, not illusory."
"[The government previously] recognized that differences in athletic interests between genders could cause participation rates to differ, even at institutions that provide equal opportunity," said the lawsuit, which charged that the Education Department admitted providing more protection for women than the law required.
Mr. Joseph said calculations for an entire university would affect specific men's teams chosen to be downsized or eliminated to balance overall participation. He said a school might authorize 40-player male and female soccer squads but if 50 men and 25 women tried out, both teams would be cut to 25 players.
"The department's guidance documents basically say you can walk into the soccer team locker room and kick 15 guys off the team," Mr. Joseph said in an interview.
Ms. Lopiano called that "disinformation" and said such figures ignored schools that added men's teams. She said 31 football teams and 149 men's soccer programs had been added to NCAA rosters.
Women also have new opportunities, the NCAA says, including 21 ice hockey teams, 90 rowing squads, 27 squash teams, seven synchronized swimming teams and 20 water polo teams.
While NCAA figures from 1981 to 2001 include more schools, they show the overall number of men's teams has risen 14.5 percent while the number of women's teams has rocketed 76.2 percent.
"Are men's sports being cut because of Title IX? The answer is no absolutely, unequivocally not," Ms. Lopiano said. "They are being cut because there is a smaller pie and they're using Title IX as a convenient scapegoat because they didn't want those bottom three sports anyway. They're too much trouble."


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