- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

I’d like to offer some thoughts on the issue of Title IX and Thursday’s rally in front of the Department of Education. But first, I want to point you in the direction of an interesting Q&A; featuring Todd Radom, the designer of many sports logos, including the Washington Nationals. I always get a kick out of reading about people who do work we take for granted. My colleague Maury Brown at Bizofbaseball.com conducted the interview, found here.

Now, on to the dryer, yet no less important topic of Title IX.

A quick primer: Title IX was passed in 1972 to ensure the gender balance of college sports teams reflects the student body as a whole, and that no one was denied the right to play sports on the basis of gender.

When my editor told me earlier this week I’d be writing about this, I immediately thought taking a sedative and watching the test pattern on a broken television would be a more riveting experience. But after covering yesterday’s rally featuring scores of James Madison University athletes, I came to realize the issue of Title IX is actually quite fascinating, even if it does appear mind-numbingly complex.

Here’s the skinny on what’s been happening:

James Madison, citing a need to comply with Title IX, recently announced it is eliminating 10 teams, including seven on the men’s side. It’s a somewhat ironic occurrence; when Title IX was created in 1972, it essentially served to ensure that schools would ADD sports for women. But women now outnumber men at most college campuses, thus making attempts at gender balance among sports teams a little trickier than in the past, especially since a good share of the men’s scholarships are used up by football, a team which has no female counterpart.

The athletes at yesterday’s rally, many of them members of the to-be-cut men’s swim team, are campaigning for changes to Title IX that will allow schools to simply survey students to determine what sports they want to play, and eliminate the gender balance requirements.

No matter where you stand on the issue, you have to feel sorry for some of these athletes. Many of them chose James Madison because the school offered them the opportunity to play sports, and some of them even came to the college after their previous institution cut their team.

“A lot of these kids were recruited, and the tables were turned on them,” said Linda Martin, whose son, Tom, is a member of the spurned swim team.

Of course, whether or not these cuts are actually the result of Title IX is where the current debate starts.

Supporters of the law, including NCAA Myles Brand, insist sports teams are being eliminated because teams can’t get their financial house in order.

Other supporters argue it would be easier and less disruptive to add a few women’s teams than cut a large number of men’s teams to get into Title IX compliance.

Trying to determine precisely why a sport is eliminated is tough. A school could easily blame Title IX when budget concerns are the true culprit. But, universities have been known to blame budget problems when in fact, Title IX compliance is their main motivation.

The issue of athletic department budgets has no doubt complicated this issue. All but about two dozen athletic departments are spending more money than they are bringing in. So it seems logical that some lower profile teams —particularly those teams like swimming and archery, which bring in little revenue — could be eliminated. However, it’s also logical to note that those same sports are also very inexpensive to operate, and eliminating them offers little cost savings to the university.

Clearly, the cutting of college sports teams goes against the spirit of Title IX. But is Title IX itself to blame? Or are universities like James Madison taking drastic, unnecessary steps to get into compliance with the rules? Is Title IX an outdated law designed to address gender inequity problems that no longer exist? And if so, should it be eliminated, or simply tweaked?

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