ESPN.com recently posted an article checking in on the BYU Cougars, the men's soccer club team from Brigham Young University that competes in the Premier Development League, the highest level amateur soccer conference under the auspices of the United Soccer League.
Though many Division I men's soccer players join PDL teams for off-season experience, the BYU Cougars is the only team in the league with a college affiliation. Unlike many of their opponents who go back to their college scholarships -- as well as NCAA restrictions on eligibility and professionalism-- at the end of the summer , the club team Cougars have more flexibility to, say, sign professional contracts while still competing for their school as a couple of them recently did. On the other hand, no scholarships.
BYU Cougars coach Chris Watkins explained that the Cougars joined the PDL in 2003 after years of unsuccessfully trying to elevate from club to varsity status. At BYU, male students already have a disproportionately higher number of athletic opportunities (which Watkins blamed on "the growth and expense of college football") so adding men's soccer without adding a comparable sport for women would have jeopardized the school's Title IX compliance.
But BYU was willing to support the Cougars' move to the PDL, which meant purchasing a franchise for $40,000. Compared to the cost of floating an NCAA Division I program -- as much as $500,000 -- that price tag was relatively cheap.
However, because Title IX regulations apply to club sports as well, the university should be offering comparable support to its club sports for women. In 2003, it was reported that women had unsuccessfully sought recognition for club field hockey, water polo and ice hockey teams. I wonder what happened to them. Today coed racquetball is the only club sport opportunity for BYU women. In addition to men's soccer, BYU has men's lacrosse and rugby clubs.