Friday, December 12, 2008

"It was never a money issue. It was a Title IX issue."

This is the explanation University of Delaware athletic director gave for his decision to cut men's indoor track and add (eventually) women's golf. Ironically, this statement follows on the heels of UD's announcement of its long-term strategic plan to revamp its athletic facilities. The university's first priority is to add an athletic performance center so that the football coach can impress recruits (that's not me being snarky. That's in the article). Subsequent priorities include rebuilding the football stadium, a project that will require it to destroy and reconstruct two other athletic facilities -- the ice arena and the outdoor swimming pool.

Here's why I think the timing of the two announcements are ironic and ill-timed. Cuts are always about money (they are also always about Title IX, because Title IX reasonably and appropriately protects women's athletic opportunities from getting cut when --and only when -- women have proportionately fewer opportunities to start with). First of all, there's no requirement that universities comply with prong one. Adding women's sports often results in compliance with either the other two alternative prongs (continuous expansion of opportunities for women, and effectivement satisfying the interests and abilitis of the underrepresented sex). And let me emphasize this point with respect to UD's case: adding golf alone (i.e., without cutting men's indoor track) could have given them a strong basis to claim compliance with Title IX under prongs two or three. This casts doubt on the AD's claims that cutting men's indoor track was a Title IX issue.

Second of all, there's no requirement that a university comply with the first prong by cutting men's teams. If a university wants to achieve proportionality it can either (1) add more opportunities for women so that the percentage of opportunities matches the percentage of women in the student body; or (2) cut opportunities for men until the percentage of opportunities matches the percentage of men on campus; or (3) some of each. Why would any university chose door number 2 or door number 3, rather than door number 1? When asked, they always say it's because they don't have the finances to choose door number 1. Thus, in UD's case, the AD's "It's not a money issue" statement smacks of incredulity. His university has announced that it will undertake an aggressive fundraising campaign in acknowledged hard economic times to renovate facilities that largely benefit football. It is about money. It's also about priorities.

Saying "there's no money" is one thing. Saying "we'd rather spend money on football than on providing a diverse array of athletic opportunities for both men and women" is another thing altogether. Unfortunately, I'm not optimistic that those eager to blame Title IX for university's misdirected priorities will probe the AD's statement deeply enough to recognize the difference.