Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On Zimbalist's The Bottom Line

Andrew Zimbalist is my favorite economist, and not just because he's one of Northampton's own. I ordered his new book, The Bottom Line: Observations on Sport and Business, from publisher Temple University Press. To my delight, it arrived in yesterday's mail, and thus is my Title IX topic of the day.

The Bottom Line is a collection of essays that Zimbalist has published in various publications like Sports Business Journal and the New York Times since 1998. So the book is a handy resource because it gathers these pieces all in one place. (But if you are looking for deeper treatment of economic issues in sport, and something not written for a generalist, newspaper-reading audience, you might try one of his other books.)

The collected essays address a wide range of topics on the economics of sport including stadium finance, antitrust and labor issues, the media and steroid regulation. But it's his essays on college sports and gender equity (Part V) that are of particular interest to me. In these essays Zimbalist makes a very clear, economic argument that Title IX is not victimizing men's sports (as per, e.g., yesterday's column on First, he quantifies the steady increase in the number of male college athletes in the Title IX era. (p. 248) Second, he points out that while certain men's sports like wrestling and gymnastics have lost participants, most of this dropoff occurred between 1982 and 1992, the years when there was little or no enforcement of Title IX. (p. 266) Third, and throughout various essays, he makes a compelling case that economics is what drives athletic cuts, not gender equity. Helpfully, he itemizes expenditures of the major men's sports, like coaches' salaries, scholarships, travel, that could be redirected to other sports as an alternative to cuts. (p. 248-49, 267-68) And as a corollary to this point, he gives plenty of evidence to dispel the myth that football is a moneymaker and thus warrants special treatment under Title IX. (p. 230-32, 247-48).

So here's my bottom line. Zimbalist gathers the up the numbers and conveys them clearly, providing a much-needed balance to the public perception of the economic effects of Title IX.

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