Friday, November 28, 2008

Mistakes versus flaws

University of Delaware alum and current ESPN Page 2 columnist Jeff Pearlman has a column about the rumors regarding the cuts to men's track at UD. It's entitled "It's a mistake if Delaware cuts men's track, cross country."
And it's a very well-written piece. It is very clear that Pearlman had a better-than-average student-athlete experience at UD on the cross country team. And that experience was engendered by an amazing coach and, I would argue, participation on a team that was fairly tight-knit, in part because it was marginalized. As Pearlman himself notes no one really cares about watching running or reporting on it. And the story he tells of his own time on the team reflects an experience based more on personal goals and motivations rather than public recognition and accolades. It is not fair to say this is a more "pure" form of sport or that these athletes are more devoted to their sport. But it does remind us that athlete experiences are diverse. Cutting teams diminishes the diversity of experiences.
None of us believe that cutting teams is the right thing to do. But given that UD's undergrad population is comprised of 58 percent women but female student-athletes are only 47 percent; and that UD has not added a women's team for about a decade, UD must do something.
But it does not mean, as Pearlman states, that Title IX is wacky or flawed. It means that even though UD will not be adding opportunities for women, for those young, dreaming girls Pearlman invokes, it will not be taking them away. Do I wish that schools would not take away any opportunities from anyone? Yes. Do I wish that most schools had a little more foresight? Yes. Do I wish that they had provided opportunities all along, even when Title IX was not being as well enforced? Yes. But it is not the law's fault that administrators chose to ignore it when no one was looking.