UCLA’s Daily Bruin Uncovers Inconvenient Facts About Title IX Enforcement

The student editors at UCLA’s Daily Bruin deserve some kudos today for a trio of articles they’ve published about how Title IX compliance has affected the athletic department at that historic school.

The first piece by Emma Coghlan looks at how the strict gender quotas required by Prong One of the law’s three-part test are preventing men’s lacrosse and men’s rugby from attaining varsity status:

From Quidditch to volleyball, club sports allow students to compete without NCAA intensity. Some teams, however, are at the club level simply because the effects of Title IX gender equity restrictions keep them out of the NCAA.

Men’s lacrosse, though sanctioned by the NCAA in many collegiate programs, is not an NCAA sport at UCLA. The team has not actively pushed for NCAA status because of financial restraints that make the sport too expensive for UCLA to balance with Title IX rules.

Another piece by Alex Goodman looked at the history of Title IX enforcement at the school, and how the double standard of Title IX enforcement helped spark a death spiral in men’s gymnastics nationwide:

Peter Vidmar came to UCLA in 1979, competing for men’s gymnastics, though he said it often seemed like the male and female gymnasts were all on the same team. Aside from the women’s athletic facilities being housed in a temporary building, he didn’t remember noticeable discrepancies in terms of funding or equipment.

A year after graduating, Vidmar was one of three Bruins on the gold medal-winning 1984 Olympic team. The UCLA men’s gymnastics team won the NCAA championship that same year, and again in 1987.

But in August of 1993, facing serious budget cuts, the university announced plans to cut the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams along with the men’s swimming and diving teams.

Although Title IX was not included in the stated rationale for eliminating any of the programs, the women’s team threatened legal action on the basis of the gender equality law.

By November, UCLA announced a four-tier plan to enhance opportunities for female athletes, which included reinstating the women’s gymnastics team.

Collegiate men’s gymnastics, meanwhile, was steadily dwindling. By 1996, there were 32 varsity teams left in the country, down from 234 in 1969. Both Vidmar and Wilson said the loss of UCLA’s program, consistently one of the best in the country, opened the door wider for other universities to follow suit. Each cut leaves less competition for the remaining teams, they said, making it harder to justify their existence in the face of economic issues.

The final story by Kylie Reynolds and Ryan Menezes may be the most honest piece of journalism about Title IX that we’ve come across in some time. We’ve made the case in the past that schools will often add large roster sports for women not due to interest, but simply because it adds massive numbers of participants that help schools reach proportionality. At the Daily Bruin, they printed the gospel truth right in the headline: “UCLA team members help fulfill Title IX requirements“:

Field said the number of rowers, including walk-ons, helps UCLA stay within Title IX compliance by increasing the number of female athletes at the school.

A lack of high school rowing teams from which to recruit collegiate rowers makes enlisting walk-ons necessary to fill boats and provide a competitive environment, Recruiting walk-ons also allows interested female student athletes coming out of high school and onto campus to compete at the collegiate level, he said.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, schools opting to add rowing has resulted in more popular sports, such as women’s wrestling, being denied a foothold in NCAA competition. Simply put, strict gender quotas used to comply with Title IX are actually hurting female athletes.

Once again, kudos to the student reporters at UCLA for having the guts to simply follow where the facts led them.

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