Some might contend we just can’t create miracles like we use to. I mean how many times has the Red Sea parted recently? But if you pay attention to the media, there are many miracles that are happening all the time regarding social issues. The discussion of Title IX and its effect on college sports generally correspond with this paradigm. If something is good, credit Title IX as bringing about equality in college sports. If something is bad, don’t mention Title IX’s role. Two news stories I recently inadvertently came across, illustrate this point. One is from “Fox News”, the other, “The Washington Post”. Expect more during the Summer Olympics. For instance, as I am writing this with the television tuned to the PBS program “The News Hour” on June 19th”, sportswriter Christine Brennan is crediting Title IX for there being more women than men on the 2021 U.S Olympic team.
The reality is that Title IX requires athletic teams to be proportional to the number of students at a school. The inconvenient fact is that males are more interested in participating in college sports. Also relevant, is that the fact that men performing at a higher level in these sports is a reason for the greater interest in these sports.
It also should be noted, that sports are one of the few areas regarding academic institutions were more males than females want to participate. Not coincidently, it is the one that is the focus of feminists and therefore the media. For the record, I am for female sports participation. What I am interested in addressing, is the consistent intellectual dishonesty regarding the topic. Also, I believe both male and female athletes would benefit if the current rules were revised.
The segment on “Fox News” hosted by Chris Wallace, dealt with what he described as the “controversy” about transgender issues in sports. Featured on the show was women’s sports activist Donna de Varona, a winner of a gold medal in swimming in 1964. Wallace mentioned that de Varona was now being accused of discrimination due to her views on transgender women in sports. To me, her views seemed to be pretty balanced. In contrast, de Varona’s previous statements regarding Title IX and women’s sports were treated as completely laudatory and accurate.
Without the ability to get a college sports scholarship, de Varona retired from swimming competition at age 17. She credited Title IX with not just women’s current involvement in sports, but their winning more medals in the last Summer Olympics than men. This begs the question if you want the United States to earn a lot of medals, why is this such a good thing? After all, each sex’s medals count the same.
Obviously, things have changed in society and sports in the intervening 57 years from when de Varona earned her gold medal. Most significantly, while college sports participants still qualify as amateurs, Olympic sports are no longer restricted to amateur athletes. It would be reverse feminism to put too much blame on Title IX being behind men’s lower Summer Olympic medal count. In the 1992 Winter Olympics, women won all of the United States gold medals. Four were in skating and one in skiing. It is quite unlikely that Title IX had anything to do with their success. Of course, Title IX was credited nevertheless (The 1992 Winter Olympics: When Women Ruled The Games).
A few weeks after Wallace’s program, I came across an article in the Washington Post by Liz Clarke, who was covering the Wimbledon tennis tournament. She credited the lack of top black male tennis players partly to the lack of male college participants in the sport. Clarke observed: “The dwindling number of NCAA men’s tennis teams compounds the challenge as athletic departments slash spending and divert revenue to football and men’s basketball in a post-covid world ( Liz Clarke. “The last black finalist was in 1996. What will it take for another?”, “The Washington Post”, July 3, 2021).
In reality, successful basketball and football programs, often fund the rest of college athletics. Clarke also doesn’t explain why only male tennis teams were cut and not female ones. The proportionality requirement of Title IX is the real culprit.
An example, from Jessica Gavora’s book “Tilting the Playing Field”, illuminates how such things come about. Providence College had more female students than males, but not the corresponding number of athletic teams. To meet the numbers quota, the school eliminated the men’s baseball team, plus men’s tennis and golf. The Providence baseball coach wanted to raise funds to keep his baseball team, but since the school would have to add another female sport, this became financially untenable. The baseball team went on to win the Big East championship team and win their most games ever. Still, they were unable to save baseball at the school (Jessica Gavora, “Tilting the Playing Field”, pages 44-46, Encounter books, 2002). This happened in 1998. Currently, in 2021, the school is still without a men’s baseball, golf or tennis team. All three are Olympic sports in 2021.
Football, not Title IX, is usually cited as the culprit for eliminating male sports programs. This is misleading. For instance, Providence College did not have a football team and still had to make the cuts described above. While football is a factor in cutting a lot of men’s teams, it is complying with gender proportionally that is the issue. The only way to comply and still have a football team is to cut male sports, add female ones, or some combination of the two.
There are significantly more women competing in college sports that are also part of the Olympics. Complying with Title IX, where schools have a football team, is a major reason. An example is the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where football is huge. Wrestling is now an Olympic sport for both sexes. Nebraska has a male wrestling team, a sport many colleges had to cut to comply with Title IX. It does not have a women’s wrestling team. The 2021 Olympic sports that are exclusively female at the University are swimming and diving, tennis, rifling, track and field, volleyball, and beach volleyball. But then how could a landlocked state like Nebraska, not have a women’s beach volleyball team?
Both sexes participate together in many sports outside of college teams. But with schools having to cut male teams to comply with Title IX, coed sports such as tennis, bowling, etc. are largely impractical. This could not be more contrary to the wishes of former female tennis star and women’s sports activist Billy Jean King. She co-founded World Team Tennis and she was: “envisioning a world in which men and women compete together on a team with both genders making equal contribution to the result (https://www.billiejeanking.com/tennis/world-).
Many of these sports could become coed with little or no cost. For instance, in tennis, golf, bowling and others sports, players can supply their own equipment and most away competition is done by bus travel. Is there any place less compatible with King’s vision than sports under regulation Title IX? Not international sports. In the Summer Olympics this year, there will be 18 coed sports (Olympics Shift: IOC Doubles Number Of Mixed-Gender Events …). But what of soccer? The sport where we have been consistently been told that Title IX is behind women’s world championship success. What does not get much mentioned in the far greater ability women have to get scholarships in college soccer. There are 333 Division I women’s college soccer teams, (ncsasports.org women’s-soccer) compared to 205 men’s teams (ncsasports.org men’s-soccer). In addition, women’s teams can give out a total of partial and full scholarships adding up to 14, while men have a 9.9. scholarship limit (https://www.collegescholarships.org › scholarships › sports).
So if Title IX is the reason for women’s success, how can it not be the reason for men not doing better in World Cup competition? Accepting this could lead to a great overhaul of the system with women’s sports being the target. But this is the mainstream media on gender, for God’s sake. I believe the press has significantly overstated the role Title IX has played in the success of the women’s team. Still, it is hard to argue that more college scholarships don’t have any effect. For instance, it is common for un-touted high school players to become stars in college sports. Fewer males are getting scholarships and fewer are playing college soccer, meaning fewer players with untapped potential will get a chance in college sports.
What about the idea of equal pay for men’s and women’s World Cup teams? One would think that the relative lack of success in men’s soccer is a reason to put in more resources, not less. That is what happened in Olympic basketball when the American team was defeated. The Dream Team being part of that solution. Of course, the same logic could be used with other countries being more competitive with the American women’s soccer team. Here though is my question. Is there any place in sports in this country, where any group gets equal pay, without equal performance besides women’s sports? Or for that matter, equal pay for less work, which happens in major tennis championships? If you have an example, please write in and let me know.