Inside Higher Ed reported last week on the NCAA's recent update to its biennial gender equity report, which provides statistics on athletic participation and funding for women's sports. For the most part, college women's sports fared as well in 2005-2006, the years covered by the current report, as they had in 2003-2004, the last year for which the NCAA had published data. The average percentage of athletic opportunities afforded to women at Division I institutions nudged up slightly from 44% to 45%, while the average at Division II & III schools continues to hover at 41% and 42% respectively.
But while the percentage of opportunities allocated to female athletes held steady, the percentage of money allocated to women's teams has dipped downward a bit. Among Division I schools, the average percentage of athletic department funds allocated to women's sports has gone from was 37% in 2003-04 to 34% in 2005-06. Average spending on both men's and women's sports has increased in absolute terms, but men's teams are receiving comparatively more than women. Which means that, even in these tough, budget-cutting times, schools are finding money to increase their athletic budgets overall. They are chosing, however, to allocate more of these new funds to men's teams than to women's.
While Title IX does not require schools to spend equal or proportionate dollars on men's and women's sports, spending disparities are often an indicator that schools are discriminating against female athletes by providing them less favorable treatment than male athletes, who might receive superior equipment and facilities, more coaches, trainers, training tables, covering more travel expenses and meals, better publicity, etc. Thus, the declining percentage of athletic budgets allocated to women's sports could be a sign that such disparities are widening rather than decreasing. In the IHE article, Donna Lopiano suggests that the Bush Administration's failure to enforce Title IX could have a lot to do with this trend. If she's right, there's one more place we can look for change from the next Administration.