Saturday, March 08, 2008

Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend?

Last week we posted about a female baseball player in Indiana winning the right to try out for baseball even though her high school has a softball team. Now, via the awesome Women's Sports Blog, we learn of a similar development in Nebraska, where the interscholastic athletic association recently voted to change its past practice of treating baseball and softball as equivalent sports. By recognizing baseball and softball as separate and distinct sports, a girl now has the opportunity to try out for baseball even if a softball team is offered at her school. Interestingly, since Nebraska high schools play softball in the fall and baseball in the spring, a female athlete may actually try out for both.

Readers may wonder whether Title IX creates an equivalent right for boys to try out for girls' softball now that they are not regarded as equivalent sports. According to the Title IX regulation (34 CFR 106.41(b)) governing cross-over participation, if a school offers only one team in a particular sport, it must let members of the opposite sex try out if athletic opportunities for that athlete's sex have "previously been limited" (and the sport involved is not a contact sport, but this limitation most likely does not include softball). There is some debate over whether this standard requires the cross-over participant to show athletic opportunities overall were previously limited (a standard boys would not be able to meet) or whether they only need to show that previous limitations in opportunities to participate in sport in question (a standard boys might be able to satisfy with respect to high school softball). There is certainly judicial support for the former interpretation, which is presumably the position that the NSAA is taking.