Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FGCU Athletic Department Earns High Marks in External Review

Today the external review team assigned to evaluate Florida Gulf Coast University athletic department's compliance with Title IX released its final report (news coverage) (report). The review was conducted as part of a settlement of litigation involving claims that the university discriminated and retaliated against female coaches who had voiced concerns about inequality in the department.

Though the report does not examine or address discriminatory environment for female coaches, administrators, or other university employees, it does suggest that female athletes are currently receiving equal or favorable treatment in all of the major areas identified by Title IX regulations as indicative of equality in the athletic opportunities provided to both sexes. According to the report's lead author, Dr. Christine Grant, the university has been "overly generous" to female athletes in terms of scholarships, it provides athletic opportunities to women in proportion to their representation in the student body, and it is providing opportunities of comparable quality to its male and female athletes, indicated in part by the fact proportionate funding for women's athletics.

Included in the report's analysis was a comparison of the quality of coaching male and female athletes receive. Because the recent litigation against FGCU involved female coaches' claims of employment discrimination, I was particularly interested in this aspect of the report. As it turns out, head coaches of FGCU's women's teams earn more than coaches of men's teams, despite having fewer years of experience on average. Moreover, female athletes were more likely to have coaches with multi-year contracts, an indicator of job security for the coach which provides stability for the student athlete. While the fact that women's coaches are less experienced than men's raises some concern, the fact of their earning more suggests that the university is recognizing the value of women's sports and trying to equalize salaries in a historically underpaid profession. It bears noting, however, that the report does not evaluate any factors that may have bearing on the claims, raised in the earlier litigation, of discrimination against female coaches, since it only reports differences between coaches of men's teams (all male) and coaches of women's teams (3 women, 5 men).