Thursday, March 14, 2013

Towson goes through with athletic team cuts

Last fall Towson University announced plans to cut men's soccer and baseball. This past week they followed through with these plans after a process that--from all reports--was mired in confusion and perhaps deception.
Athletic Director Mike Waddell drew criticism in the fall when he said the cuts were due to Title IX: the university needed to achieve parity in the athletic opportunities it provides students. At that time, Erin (among others) questioned this rationale when it came out that Waddell didn't do the numbers right. That, in fact, Towson had already achieved proportionality.
But this week the university president made a formal announcement to the student-athletes involved--a process that also has drawn intense criticism from players, coaches, parents, and community members. And though the reality of the athletic department's financial situation has been brought to light alongside the lack of a Title IX problem (at least in providing opportunities), the president's statement include an immediate mention of Title IX:
For the past several months our campus has been dealing with a proposed recommendation from our athletics leadership to reconfigure the intercollegiate athletics program to address three issues facing the university: long-term financial stability and affordability; compliance with Federal Title IX requirements; and the ability to be competitive in NCAA Division I athletics.

It is possible the her statement about Title IX--sandwiched in the middle of the other less nebulous reasons--is true. She could be speaking of providing equitable treatment to its women's teams, which also is connected to financial issues. But the number-shifting the cuts have caused are not Title IX related. The university is actually reinstating its men's tennis team.
And many of those involved in this situation know that Title IX was not the motivator behind this decision. Several parents of Towson baseball players, including one who works for the Department of Education, noted that all the information about the department's financials and Title IX data is available to the public and does not support the Title IX claim but rather reflects some fiscal mismanagement or shifting of priorities.
We shall see what the next big project out of Towson athletics is; it should be an indicator of how it intends to remain "competitive in NCAA Division I athletics."