Friday, December 30, 2011

Alma College wrestling reborn

We've largely gotten away from correcting all the little mistakes, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations of Title IX that occur in the media.
But sometimes one of them just strikes that nerve and...
A story about the rebirth of intercollegiate wrestling at Alma College in Michigan says that the program was cut in 1984 "in large part because of Title IX." This bothers me for two--related--reasons. One, a majority of the wrestling community blames the enforcement of Title IX for its demise in the 80s. And two, Title IX was not being applied to athletic departments in 1984. The Grove City decision came down in 1984. No school is going to cut a program for Title IX reasons while a Supreme Court decision over whether it will have to or not is pending.
Wrestling advocates argue that wrestling is growing in popularity. And the numbers support this. But that does not mean it has retained a consistent level of popularity or support over the past 40 years. That some wrestling programs are being (re)introduced is indicative of the ways in which athletic programs change with the times. And this is a good thing.
The president and trustees of Alma College say that the time was right to reintroduce wrestling because of the benefits it will bring to the athletic department and the school as a whole.
They did a feasibility study. Which means they must have run the numbers I just did.
So Alma has a 105-member football team. (These are the latest numbers reported to the Department of Education.) This presents a certain amount of challenges especially when the student body is 58 percent female. They added 26 opportunities for men with wrestling. Fortunately they added 28 for women when bowling and lacrosse got put in place this year as well. So these new numbers added to the old numbers (in other words, this is approximate) look like this:
Fifty-nine percent of athletic opportunities at Alma go to male students. Prior to the addition of wrestling and women's lax and bowling this year men had 60 percent of the opportunities.
In other words, not much changed.
Alma remains in compliance under prong two. Still the implication that the wrong/discrimination men experienced when wrestling was cut in the 80s seems a little misplaced given that women then and now have fewer opportunities at Alma College.