Sacrificial lambs? Gender equity in collegiate sports a joke
Every year around this time I ask myself, “Do I need to write about the NBA?” and the answer is invariably “Yes.” February is the NBA’s time to experience life as an only child: football is over, and spring training is still weeks away– until the playoffs loom, February is the only time the NBA doesn’t have to share the spotlight.
So undoubtedly I’ll write a column about the NBA in February. But not this week. This week I’ve got a bone to pick.
Remember February 2? It was a Wednesday, it was Groundhog’s Day.
Do you remember what you were doing? Were you planning your Super Bowl menu? Checking TMZ for videos of Ben Roethlisberger? Perhaps you were tweeting responses to James Harrison’s mockery of Roger Goodell.
It was a Wednesday, it was Groundhog’s Day– and it was National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Since the people who created National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) are such nincompoops that they didn’t realize the futility of cramming it into the most testosterone-packed, machismo-laden, man-loving week of the year, it’s little wonder so few people have ever heard of it, much less care about it.
So when the University of Delaware chose Thursday, February 3, the day after NGWSD, to hold a town hall meeting about its decision to axe men’s running teams, it did so with absolutely no sense of irony.
If you thought, what irony?– what does Delaware cutting its men’s teams have to do with girls or women anyway?– then you’ve asked an astute question. The answer is: everything.
Delaware isn’t cutting men’s track and cross-country because they stink or cost too much or suffer from a lack of interest; Delaware, a school with 57 percent female enrollment, is cutting men’s track and cross country so it can adhere to Title IX guidelines: Delaware just doesn’t want to spend the chump change it would cost to create a women’s track and cross country team. And that’s not paranoia talking; that’s the truth.
When athletic director Bernard Muir– who not only has two daughters, but also serves on the national governing body for men's and women's basketball– first announced Delaware’s decision back in January, he specifically cited Title IX as a reason for the University’s decision.
“We found ourselves facing two options: either we had to continue the periodic expansion of programming for women in order to be responsive to their interests and abilities, or adjust the current offerings to provide equitable and substantially proportionate participation opportunities for our men and women.”
So much for women’s interests and abilities, say Bernard Muir and nearly every man who has commented about Delaware’s decision. Male bloggers on Delaware Online called Title IX “a train wreck,” “horse crap,” “a bad law” and “nonsense.”
One man even had the audacity to ask, “Who’s looking out for civil rights for me and my sons?” One might well ask oneself how, 38 years after Title IX first became law, such hateful and disgusting attitudes can still exist.
And it’s not just about sports. What happened at Delaware has made barely a ripple in the pond of college athletics, but it’s hardly “nonsense.” A recent article in the New York Times reported that starting salaries for female physicians are much lower than men’s, and the gender pay gap has grown from 12.5 percent to 17 percent in the past decade.
Gender inequality is supposed to be illegal, but it’s more than tolerated; it’s outright ignored. And make no mistake: such heinous discrepancies have their roots in what happened at Delaware and every school that makes similar choices.
Before 1972, women had almost no hope of equality in education, much less sports, but I agree with many of the male bloggers on Delaware Online: Title IX is fundamentally flawed. Rather than an either-or approach to the law’s three-prong test of compliance, all three prongs should be required to meet Title IX’s standards. The either-or approach gives schools at least two loopholes through which they can deny women opportunity and funnel more money to high profile men’s sports, especially football, which is exactly what Delaware is doing with the $20,000 it saved by cutting men’s track and cross-country.
Delaware was right about one thing: there are two things a school can sacrifice and still comply with Title IX: women’s interests and abilities.
Juanita Giles lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.