Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Getting the facts right

This is my somewhat belated follow-up to this post about the UA water polo team and the misrepresentation of Title IX in the media.

In a follow-up to his initial reporting of University of Arizona administrators deciding to add water polo to their list of varsity sports for women, Arizona Star columnist Greg Hansen wrote another column criticizing the decision. This one too was riddled with inaccuracies and something that was supposed to resemble support for Title IX but begins by Hansen noting that the decision to add water polo is an example of "Title IX run amok."
Why? Because high schools in Arizona don't have water polo. But lots of high schools in CA do and CA isn't that far away. Plus Hansen fails to research whether there are water polo club teams in the state. He also fails to acknowledge that adding water polo at UA could actually create more opportunities for high school girls. His earlier article complained that water polo could not be revenue-generating. Know what generates a lot of revenue (and publicity)? The only summer water polo camp in the state which is what UA will establish if they are savvy enough to see the opportunity here.

Hansen does get some things right, though: water polo was added to account for "football-bloated male participation numbers." But then he attempts to make an economic argument:
"No women's sport comes close to football's numbers in participation and, more importantly, in revenue. Indeed, football pays for women's sports on almost every college campus in America, yet, because of Title IX ratios, men's sports are inherently penalized because football is so big."
It takes a smidge of research (which Hansen--or his editors--apparently did not have the time to do) to find out that football programs on most college campuses DO NOT PAY for women's sports. 78% of them cannot even pay for themselves!

And unfortunately the people who commented on the article also took up the "but football pays for everything; without football where would athletic departments be?" type arguments. I don't know, maybe we should ask Boston University who cut their football team years ago. Hasn't seemed to affect their perennially strong men's hockey team or the school's reputation as an excellent educational institution.

It is certainly possible that UA is one of the schools with a football program that actually makes more money than it spends. On the one hand, the university reports football revenue outpaces expenses by $6 million. But on the other hand, expense figures such as these could exclude capital costs including the bond debt on the football stadium. (It is also worth pointing out that while UA may, coincidentally spend $6 million on women's sports, it is not exactly a convincing argument from an equity standpoint to say that "football pays for women's sports" given that the $6 million spent on women's sports amounts to less than 16% of all athletic department spending overall. Nor it is an accurate one, given that women's teams themselves offset $2 million in costs with the revenue they bring in from ticket sales and camps.)

But what is truly disappointing about the article is the praise Hansen seems to heap on Title IX because, for example, it has sent Arizona softball players across the country to coveted coaching positions or made college soccer more mainstream. He even says "Thank you, Title IX" which rings a little hollow when just paragraphs before he instructed us "Title IX activists" to "accept that it works, has worked, and stop digging for more."

I cannot bear to end on such a sour note so in an attempt to make some lemonade I have to say that the blatant inaccuracies and false praise for Title IX only make this activist want to dig all the harder.

1 comment:

jeremy said...

U of A would be smart to get a water polo summer camp going or host a large tournament to make money for themselves. That is what ASU has been doing and is doing very well in a few short years on varsity. There are clubs in the Arizona area for water polo just not many, I think 2 or 3 youth clubs