Will Title IX Kill FCS College Football?

In only the past few weeks, both Northeastern Univerisity and HofstraUniversity announced that they were eliminating their football programs. Both schools compete in the Football Championship Series, what was known for many years as Division I-AA. In announcing the end of the programs, officials at both schools cited many of the typical reasons: budget constraints, lack of success on the field and waning interest.

But a closer look at the numbers suggest that Title IX may also be responsible.

Why is that? Remember, the easiest way to prove compliance with Title IX is through proportionality, the idea that the number of opportunities offered by the athletic program is proportional to the gender balance in the student body.

For years, groups like the College Sports Council have complained that given the wide disparity in interest in competitive sports between men and women, the use of proportionality is fatally flawed and has resulted, depending on the collegiate program, in either steady erosion or strict limitation of athletic opportunities for young men. In response, the CSC believes that a safe harbor should exist for the use of interest surveys, an option that the gender quota crowd finds unacceptable. Unfortunately for American colleges and universities, hewing to strict proportionality is often the only way to avoid expensive law suits from gender quota advocates.

So what’s the actual situation at Northeastern and Hofstra? To find out, you need to take a look at the statistics that are housed at the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). At Northeastern, the current gender balance in the undergraduate student body favors women, 7,882 to 7,699. But according to the data at DoE, before the elimination of the football program, there were 301 male athletes but only 267 women. But once you eliminate 88 football players, the ratio drops to 267-213 in favor of the women, thereby completely eliminating the possibility of a law suit. Click here for all the relevant data from the DoE Web site.

The situation is roughly similar at Hofstra. There, the undergraduate gender balance favors women, 3,997 to 3,629. However, before the elimination of football, the gender balance in the athletic department favored men, 229-151. But by eliminating 86 football players, the balance shifts in favor of women, 151-143, again, eliminating any possibility of a law suit. Click here for those numbers.

Despite the fact that we’re able to read between the lines, the administrations at both schools tried their level best to deny that Title IX had any bearing on their decision. But when you read these sentences from a canned Q&A about the announcement at Hofstra, it’s easy to see that the school is talking out of both sides of its mouth:

Does this decision have any implications for the federal gender equity law known as Title IX?

Title IX was not a factor in this decision. Hofstra was, and remains, in compliance with Title IX. However, with the elimination of football, the number of men and women student-athletes more closely mirrors the population of the overall student body.

In other words, the fact that eliminating football helps the school better comply with Title IX isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

Keep an eye out for more announcements like this one in the coming weeks and months when it comes to men’s athletic programs. And here’s something else to keep in mind: more likely than not, once these programs are eliminated, they’ll never be coming back.

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