Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NPR's Frank Deford on Title IX

Frank Deford, a writer for Sports Illustrated and National Public Radio (NPR) contributor, opined on the effects of Title IX on NPR's Morning Edition today, painting both a doomsday scenario for men's college sports but also offering at least one constructive idea for how to maintain equal support for men's and women's athletics at a college (If I were Stephen Colbert, I'd have to give Deford a Tip of the Hat and a Wag of the Finger).

First, the Wag of the Finger part:
According to Deford, Title IX requires colleges and universities to have women athletes in numbers proportional to the percentage of women students enrolled. Following on that incorrect premise, Deford notes that the U.S. college population has been trending toward more women than men for some time, and appears to be continuing on that trajectory, meaning that women will outnumber men in greater proportions in the future. According to Deford, one of the reasons that women outnumber men is that they spend more time preparing for academic success, whereas men and boys spend more time playing sports and dreaming of turning their sports interest into a career. Thus, according to Deford, when colleges cut men's sports programs to comply with Title IX (once again, relying on the incorrect premise, and invoking JMU's situation), fewer of these sports-oriented men are able to go to college, creating a vicious cycle of fewer men at college meaning fewer men's sports at college, all because of Title IX. Deford then paints a picture of college teams of the future having only a handful of "Renaissance men" who are both academically inclined and interested in sports.

Where to start? Deford is just plain wrong on what Title IX requires. As we've discussed numerous times on this blog, Title IX offers three avenues of compliance for educational institutions. The first is proportionality, as Deford describes. The second and third prongs are: showing a consistent effort and history of increasing opportunities for the historically disadvantaged sex, and demonstrating that the educational institution has satisfied the interests of the historically disadvantaged sex. Title IX offers this flexibility so that schools are not required to fit the proportionality test if it doesn't make sense given the individual situation of a school and its students, and obviates any realistic possibility of Deford's dire predictions for men's sports programs as a whole.

Second, the Tip of the Hat part:
Deford, after his lament on the effect of Title IX, suggested numerous ways to deal with Title IX. One suggestion was to get rid of some athletic scholarships for "revenue generating" men's sports to allow for better financing of so-called minor men's sports that often get cut when a school is looking to trim its athletics budget. Deford's suggestion is a good one -- schools are reluctant to touch their men's football and basketball programs, but trimming the budget there should at least be considered by schools that want to avoid cutting other parts of the athletics budget.

Deford also suggests the exemption of football programs from Title IX by changing their categorization from "sports" to "entertainment" (sorry, Frank, but since Title IX applies to all programs at a school, not just sports, this move wouldn't be a cure-all).

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