Thursday, September 25, 2008

"The Title IX Blame Game Should End"

...said Marj Snyder of the Women's Sports Foundation to the Wall Street Journal in an article about the Foundation's new study on college sport participation.

Consistent with prior studies (e.g.), the WSF report concludes that both men's and women's participation has increased in the last 25 years, which itself should neutralize criticism that Title IX hurts men. It is true that the number of teams in certain men's sports have declined and that many schools today offer fewer teams for men than for women, but since men's teams (e.g., football) offer more opportunities, no net loss in participation opportunities has occurred. The report also points out that the only years when men's athletic participation declined was in 1984-87, a period when Title IX did not apply at all to college athletics, due to a Supreme Court decision that was later negated by Congress.

The report also demonstrates that universities have more often responded to Title IX by adding women's teams than by cutting men's teams. Schools that weren't in compliance in 1995-96, for example, were less likely to reduce men's opportunities and more likely to add women's opportunities than those who were. The report also presents financial data showing that rapidly increasing athletic department expenditures, which may cause the financial straits that cause schools to make cuts, are concentrated at Division I instituitons in football and men's basketball rather than women's sports.

Last the report considers a number of factors that may have influenced the realignment of sports offerings. For instance, increased participation in men's and women's lacrosse may be due to the perception of universities that lacrosse players possess traits that universities value, such as stronger academic preparation and families with higher income levels. The higher injury rate associated with gymnastics, coupled with the rising cost of health care, helps explain the declining number of teams in that sport, while the decline in tennis teams correlates to prevalence of international players, which might make the sport less appealing to schools, especially state schools, that need to serve a local market.

The report is being criticized by the College Sport Council, an advocacy group for men's sports, which argues that the WSF report relies on unverifiable data from the NCAA. However, according to the report, even using data collected by the Department of Education under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, men's opportunities have still increased 5.1% in the last 25 years (compared to the 6.3% increase you get using NCAA's data).