How Colleges Lie About Female Athletes

The number of women playing college sports has increased more than 500% since Title IX was introduced in 1972, but it certainly didn't level the playing field for female athletes.

Women make up 53% of the student body at Division I schools, but only 46% of athletes. And according to a New York Times exposé, those statistics don't even take into account that schools routinely lie about how many female athletes they actually have.

The Times reviewed records at more than 20 colleges and universities and studied federal participation statistics from all 345 Division I schools. The paper found that colleges are filling out the rosters of women's teams with underqualified athletes, counting male players as women, cutting positions for men, or even listing the names of students who don't know they're on the team. Donna E. Shalala, the president of the University of Miami, says this is an open secret on college campuses: "Those of us in the business know that universities have been end-running Title IX for a long time, and they do it until they get caught."

To avoid suspicion, schools manipulate the annual participation data they're required to report to the Department of Education, even though the numbers can't be used in a formal investigation. The practice known as "roster management" led Quinnipiac University to require female cross-country runners to join indoor and outdoor track so they could be counted three times. At the University of South Florida, a sophomore quit the track team and returned her scholarship, yet her name remained on the roster throughout her junior year. And while Cornell counts the five female coxswains on the men's rowing team as women, men who practice with the women's fencing, volleyball, and basketball teams are counted as female athletes.

Female athletic participation has turned into an elaborate shell game for colleges, and the practice hurts guys too because schools are more likely to cut men's teams than pump money into new sports for women. Of course, there's one sport that remains untouched despite the crunch: football. The average number of men on Division I football teams has actually increased from 95 players 30 years ago to 111 players in the 2009-10 season. Colleges may say they offer more opportunities for female athletes, but they're not interested in making any cuts to their most prized sports teams in the name of gender equality.

College Teams, Relying On Deception, Undermine Gender Equity [NYT]