On the heels of news that universities were lying to fulfill Title IX requirements comes the revelation that some are pre-emptively cutting men's sports to avoid violations in the future. So what's the best way to protect women's athletics without short-changing men?
As Katie Thomas of the Times points out, cutting men's teams to ensure parity with women's athletics isn't new. But the University of Delaware's decision to cut men's varsity track in order to ensure future compliance has caught male athletes by surprise. Some filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, saying the university was discriminating against men. Former Delaware track captain Tom Rogers asks, "How did we ever get to a place where a program that is supposed to be about creating opportunities for women is now being used in a way to create no opportunities for women and to cut men?"
I spoke with Donna Lopiano, president of Sports Management Resources and former CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, who has an answer to that question: what she calls the "arms race" in football and basketball. She explains,
The funneling of big sums of money to those two sports has resulted in Division I institutions spending an average of 78% of their men's athletic budget on just football and basketball, and what that does is put the squeeze on men's minor sports. The institutions are not able to comply with Title IX, they have the money to have either women's sports or to maintain men's minor sports, so they're doing the thing that's less likely to result in a lawsuit.
Lopiano adds, "the only answer is to stop this damn arms race in football and men's basketball, and there's a lack of will on the part of colleges and universities to do it." She had a couple of ideas for getting the race in check: reducing the number of football scholarships Division I schools were allowed to give out, or exempting the NCAA from antitrust laws so that it could more effectively cap expenditures like coaches' salaries. Still, she wasn't optimistic that the "arms race" would end any time soon — though now that cutting men's sports is resulting in discrimination complaints, schools may have to rethink their strategy. In any case, Lopiano she was very clear on one point: the real way to help the Delaware men's track team and others of its ilk would be to reduce football and basketball expenditures, not to change gender equality rules. When I asked her if Title IX itself needed modifying, she was succinct: "oh God no."