Sunday, April 25, 2010

NCAA Gender Equity Issues Forum: Part I

Greetings from Oak Brook, Illinois, where the NCAA is holding its annual Gender Equity Issues Forum. Tomorrow, I will co-present with Barbara Osborne of UNC about institutional liability for athlete abuse, sexual and nonsexual. But today I had the pleasure of attending very informative plenary sessions.

One of the topics that has been addressed so far is Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) reporting. Today's presentation highlighted some very important differences between gender equity disclosures that colleges and universities make to the government under the EADA and gender equity disclosures they make to the NCAA. Because EADA data is public (NCAA's is not), I rely on EADA data all the time as the starting point of an analysis of an institution's compliance with Title IX. However, as today's session highlighted, there are many reasons why EADA may not be providing as clear a picture on maters of compliance as we sometimes like to think. Here are some things that I learned today that will cause me to take EADA data with extra grains of salt from now on.
  • Male Practice Players Included in Counts for Women's Teams: EADA instructions on what counts as a participation opportunity encourage institutions to include male practice players in their total count of how many athletes are on a given team. There is the expectation that an institution will explain in the "comments" section of the disclosure form whether and how many athletes that are included in the count are male practice players, but universities don't always (a) include the practice players and (b) address it in the comments. So, we don't always know if the total number of opportunities in women's athletics programs includes some men.
  • Competitive Cheer Can Be Counted: OCR has told institutions that competitive cheer can be counted in the total count for women's opportunities, as long as the institution has a letter of approval from OCR. The approval requirement is a good idea -- as long as institutions are complying with it -- because OCR can make sure that institutions aren't trying to count sideline cheer or competitive programs that are not being treated like other athletic teams.
  • Allocated and Generated Revenue: Here's one we already knew, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to grouse about it again. OCR lets institutions report allocated revenue, i.e., money received from the institution itself, in addition to revenue generated from gate receipts, camps, and other sources. In fact, OCR requires the reported expenses and revenues to match. This is problematic because it allows institutions to send the misleading impression that athletic departments or certain programs are self-funding. It also normalizes the expectation that they are. In fact, colleges and universities ought to subsidize athletic opportunities, which, after all, are supposed to be educational opportunities. But there ought to be transparency about it.
  • Start-up Costs Excluded. OCR does not require institutions to report expenditures made for a given team prior to actually adding the team. This could allow universities to hide or underreport the true cost of a program.
  • Harmony with NCAA Reporting. Reporting would likely be more accurate if institutions did not have to prepare one set of numbers for the NCAA and another for the EADA purposes. It would be favorable for OCR to harmonize its requirements with the NCAA's for that reason as well.
OCR is ramping up Title IX enforcement efforts lately, and purports to have more in store. OCR director Russlyn Ali is speaking at this conference tomorrow. I expect she will address, or else be asked by conference participants, whether part of that effort will include EADA reform to address some of these issues.

More posts from Oak Brook to follow!