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.

Read more on: female athletesTitle IX


Hey Juanita, you should probably do some research before you have an article published. Delaware has and will continue to have a women's Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track team. In said town meeting, the university also admitted they were in compliance with title IX and they were already planning to add Women's golf that would have kept them compliant for the near future at the very least. Title IX has good intentions, but it is a bit flawed. In this case, however, it's just a scapegoat.

I am all for gender equity for men and women, and I understand the direction in which you were going in writing this article I am also a UD alum and former member of the Men's Cross-Country and Track and Field teams. As upset as I am with the decision that was made to "reclassify" the Men's running programs, I feel I should come to their defense and point out few things that are incorrect in your article.

1). UD does have Women's Cross-Country and Track and field teams.

2). UD didn't decide to have a "town hall" meeting the day after NGWSD. I had requested to meet with Bernard Muir along. if I could meet with him along with some other alumni and the number of people attending the meeting grew very quickly to over 80 people. He still agreed to meet and told me to name the time and date. I gave him a few dates to choose from, (shamefully) unaware of NGWSD, one was on NGWSD and one was the day after. So that isn't the University of Delaware's fault for choosing that date, they just chose from the dates that I had suggested. It's better than having the meeting on NGWSD.

3). UD is adding Women's Golf team next fall, so they are trying to adhere to women's interests and abilities.

Here is the thought of many people in the Delaware running community and the State of Delaware,including both men and women. The problem is they are just trying to use Title IX as a front, many people feel it is strictly an economic decision. UD is making improvements to their athletic facilities and they would like to improve the performance of many of their athletic teams. In order to do this they need addtional funds. During a tough economic climate it is very difficult to raise funds, so in order get those addtional funds cuts must be made. For whatever reason, they chose the Men's running programs. It is very easy to use Title IX as the excuse or reason, since it is such a grey area. The University of Delaware's VP and General Counsel stated at the meeting mentioned above that the University of Delaware is in compliance with Title IX, but it is getting more and more difficult for them to say that. So if there are in compliance with Title IX, why did they state that was the main reason for axing the programs?

Just as another side note, many women of the Delaware running community were at that meeting, and they probably made up about half of the number of people in attendence. The women of the Delaware running community are just as hurt and upset about this decision as the men are.

Just as another side note, Bernard Muir and the University of Delaware cut the meeting short so they could attend the WOMEN'S Basketball game and watch their star player reach a scoring milestone, a headline that was on the front page of the News Journal the next day.

Really? Like the thought, but do some research before you write something like this.

re:"“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.

What is "hateful" or "disgusting" about a father concerned about his children or even himself?

I'm a liberal democrat, and I find absolutely nothing offensive about a father concerned about the well-being of his sons. How is that hateful? Why is that disgusting?

I think the author of this article is making some assumptions to which the readers of this article are not privy. Perhaps she should explain the context in which a comment like the one quoted is "hateful" and/or "disgusting".

Hi, my name is Jenn. As in Jennifer. As in a UD Alum who ran for the WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY PROGRAM for two years while in attendance at UD. I am also a feminist and a social worker and strongly support the principles of Title IX. This is not an issue of Title IX. Title IX is being used as a scapegoat for the University not wanting to make fiscally sound but politically unpopular decisions. They rely on Tier I compliance without consideration to II and III.

Please, before lambasting the UD Men's supporters, do your research. Failing to do this just makes you look like an idiot and invalidates some of the very good points that you do make.

I'm speechless after this reading this article. The quality of writing, the statistics, the persuasive arguments... just kidding. This was an awful piece of journalism. The least you could have done was a little bit of research. As other commenters have already stated, this post contains numerous factual errors.

The only statement I agreed with was that "Title IX is fundamentally flawed." It's outdated and currently backwards. GENDER EQUALITY IS NOT OBTAINED THROUGH HURTING MALES. The University of Delaware does not want to divert "chump change" from sports like football to support growing women's programs. The large men's track and field roster (coupled with its low income) made it an easy choice to cut in order to comply with Title IX. Again, please do not let your feminism blind you from the facts of the matter. There already exists a well funded and strong women's cross country and track teams. Women's golf will be added in order to raise the number of female sports from 12 to 13 (compared to 8 sports for men). Hateful attitudes towards Title IX exist because schools are in fear of losing public funding because they are unable to comply with the law. Due to "the harsh economic climate," universities need to divert funds to create teams. Women used to complain that they were not given the opportunity to compete... now it's the men who are through the looking glass. Is this fari? I'm all for gender equality, but not when UD is just hurting the male side.

I was also unaware that the NBA was the only sport competing in February. What's the NHL people speak of? Is the English Premier League a big deal? College basketball? The list goes on. Please do not complain about writing about sports when you are a SPORTS WRITER.

As a UD alumni and former T&F participant, I am glad that you have taken the time to write about this issue.

As you stated, it has clearly gone unreported. Rather than rehash the issues other brought up with your article, I want to drive home the point that Title IX is not only being used to deflect criticism but is also being unfairly attacked. As you stated, Bernard Muir indicated that to remain in compliance, that the University had but two options. In reality Title IX offers three options (often referred to as 'prongs'). In addition to the two stated by Bernard, there is also Prong Three: "Full and effective accommodation of the interest and ability of underrepresented sex". This prong which is often ignored, has been satisfied by the University since at the time, there was both a male and female T&F and Cross Country program. Unfortunately, many Universities like to ignore this prong.

The problem at the University of Delaware is one that is affecting many major Universities and by cutting programs like these, it purposely paints Title IX in a negative light and attempts to undermine the credibility of the title itself. I wish more reporters took the time to understand the dynamics of the legislation, the misuse of it's intended purpose by Universities, and more directly call out the officials Bernard Muir who offer up programs like the Men's Cross Country and Track in the hopes of destroying Title IX which has done such an incredible amount of good for women's athletics. It is not outdated, it is not irrelevant, it is being misused, and it is under attack. That is what needs to be reported.