Why You Can’t Trust The 2007 GAO Report on NCAA Athletics

Yesterday over at the Title IX Blog, Erin Buzuvis took a moment to point to a 2007 GAO study on NCAA athletic participation rates to present it as evidence that claims that men’s sports were being harmed by Title IX enforcement were overblown.

We’d like to remind our readers that despite the fact that the GAO concluded that both men and women had experienced net gains in participation over the period of the study, the College Sports Council had a number of very pointed criticisms of the report. The following passage comes from an article that ran at Inside Higher Ed in July 2007:

But the [College] [S]ports [C]ouncil objected to the GAO study nonetheless, citing the agency’s reliance on NCAA data that the men’s sports group says differ significantly from what colleges and universities report to the U.S. Education Department under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. The group also asserted that the NCAA had refused to give the government agency access to college by college data that would have allowed the GAO to better compare the association’s numbers to those reported to the Education Department.

“It is disturbing to see that the GAO has blindly trusted the NCAA and built the report around their non-verifiable data,” Eric Pearson, chairman of the College Sports Council, said in a news release Thursday. “You would think the accounting world would have learned from the lessons of Enron. The NCAA is not a reliable source. It has made no secret of its alliance with groups advocating gender quotas that are hurting men’s sports.”

The sports council called on Congress and the GAO’s inspector general to investigate “how and why this inconsistent information was presented and how far back it goes,” said Jessica Gavora, the group’s vice president for policy.

In that same article, George A. Scott, the author of the report, admitted that the NCAA had refused to disclose specific institutional data that it considered to be “proprietary.”

In that same year, 2007, the CSC published its own study that concluded that men’s participation in NCAA athletics had taken a sharp hit over a 25-year period. Unlike the GAO report, the CSC study adjusted its results to account for the growth of the NCAA.
Please keep this in mind the next time someone refers to the GAO report.
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