Oregon Wrestling: Title IX’s Collateral Damage

Our friends at Oregon Wrestling are participating in the PAC-10 Championship in Eugene today, what may be the final competition in the program’s 54-year existence.

Late last week, Oregon’s Assistant AD, Neal Zoubouklos, stated that Title IX compliance wasn’t an issue when Oregon decided to drop the program in favor of adding Men’s Baseball and Women’s Competitive Cheer. But if you take a closer look at a feature in today’s edition of the Statesman-Journal, you’ll see that while Title IX might not have pulled the trigger on killing the program, than they might as well be named an un-indicted co-conspirator:

Oregon was the only Pac-10 school without a baseball team. That will change beginning with the 2009 season.

Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford will be the only full-fledged members of the Pac-10 with a wrestling program next season. In recent years, Boise State, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly, Portland State and UC Davis have joined the Pac-10 for wrestling.

“My sense is our conference would just as soon not support it at all,” Kilkenny said.

It is a sport that has taken a hit since the passage of Title IX, the federal law enacted in 1972 that requires educational institutions to maintain policies, practices, and programs that do not discriminate against anyone based on sex.

More than 250 Division I wrestling programs have been dropped since 1972.

In other words, so many other schools have been forced to drop wrestling because of Title IX, the university feels forced to drop it to0. But hey, Title IX wasn’t a factor. Did I forget to mention that Oregon is out of compliance with the strict proportionality standard by 12.7%?

Here’s another great passage from the story that’s worth pointing out:

Ron Finley, who coached the Ducks from 1970-98, formed the Save Oregon Wrestling campaign. More than $2 million has been raised in donations and pledges with the hope the program can support itself, forcing the athletic department to reconsider its decision.

The initial goal was to raise approximately $6 million and build a wrestling-only facility. Wrestling has operated with 9.9 scholarships and takes up about $700,000 of Oregon’s $50 million annual athletic budget. Baseball, which will have 11.7 scholarships available, is budgeted for more than $1 million annually.


“For nine months we’ve been working hard. We’re not going away,” said Finley, who still has an office in the Casanova Center in the athletic complex next to Autzen Stadium.

“We will continue to keep doing this, raise funds and work on endowing our program.

“When (athletics director Pat Kilkenny) is gone in a couple years, we’ll get it going again.”

Kilkenny, who replaced Bill Moos as athletics director in February of 2007 and agreed to stay in the position for at least two years, said the fund-raising effort “is not something we’ve authorized.”

“They have great pride in what they do,” Kilkenny said. “I don’t applaud it, but I understand it.”

How nuts is that? Here we have a committed group of alumni actively raising money to take Oregon Wrestling off the books so it won’t cost the school a dime, and the AAD won’t “applaud it”?

Just another crazy example of how Title IX enforcement has collided head on with the law of unintended consequences.

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