Friday, January 18, 2008

Will cutting swimming create compliance problems?

John Brown University in Arkansas has announced that it will cut women's swimming (the university does not field a men's team) at the end of this season. According to the article linked above, the university has been contemplating this move for a while now because of the demise of swimming programs in the NAIA (JBU does not belong to the NCAA) and in the Sooner Athletic Conference (there are no other swim programs in that conference).
This certainly seems to be a reasonable explanation and the university will, of course, honor the scholarships currently provided to the swimmers for the remainder of their time at JBU.
But there has been nary a mention of what the elimination of the team will mean for Title IX compliance. After some number crunching (thanks, EBuz) it means that JBU may--possibly-- have some compliance problems.
The current percentage of female undergrads is 53.4 percent. With swimming intact the percentage of female athletes is 53.3 percent. When swimming is eliminated that percentage drops to 48.9 giving JBU a proportionality score of -4.5 percent. Given that there is no legal precedent for a school being out of compliance when their proportionality score is under 5 percent, the swimmers may not have much ground for a fight to retain their sport. Unless of course the university has been claiming compliance under prong three in which case the university cannot cut a viable women's team unless they all consent to the fact that they really have no interest any longer in being intercollegiate swimmers. But it's hard to believe a university that meets the proportionality standard would be opting for prong three compliance.