Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dropped Teams Better Off as Clubs?

The NY Times had this brief article about collegiate club teams, which are providing competitive opportunities for athletes in sports that universities no longer decide to sponsor as part of their varsity program.

A former Yale water polo player who now coaches the club team said he was initially upset about Yale's decision to drop the varsity program: "But now, I think the athletes are better off in the club model. Unless you want to be a water polo player in the Olympic Games, a club team epitomizes the athletic experience in a more pure form."

The executive director of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association* was also interviewed about his organization's support for club wrestling, and I found his comments particularly interesting in light of the wrestling community's historic opposition to Title IX, which is often blamed for cuts. Jim Guinta said that when he realized Title IX policies would not "level out" and create opportunities for wrestling to coexist with existing, disproportionately larger men's athletics programs, he has "come to realize that institutions have been using Title IX as a cop-out. The real reason they are cutting sports is to save money. So we still encourage teams to be reinstated in the N.C.A.A. if they can, but that’s rare. We’ve moved on and have a strong association of thriving wrestling programs."

One shortcoming of the article is that it did not discuss how club sports work and what relationship they have with their universities. Most receive support in some form or another (access to facilities and equipment, maybe some help with transportation) and universities must allocate this support in a nondiscriminatory manner in order to comply with Title IX. Students are for the most part paying their own way and making their own decisions about how the team is run. This is, presumably, what the Yale water polo coach meant when he described clubs as a "purer" form of sport.

* Not the National Wrestling Coaches Association, as I had earlier posted. Apologies for the error.