What the Women’s Sports Foundation Doesn’t Want You to Know About Title IX and Quotas

Here at Saving Sports, we’ve been following rumors about the elimination of the men’s track and field team at the University of Delaware for about two and a half years. If you look through our archives, you’ll see that we first took notice of the possibility of trouble back in November 2008. Over the weekend, the New York Times finally took a look at the story in a very straightforward report, something that inspired the folks over at the Women’s Sports Foundation to post a response.

And, as you might have guessed from what we’ve written previously (click here and here), there was a lot they left out. Let’s get started:

The New York Times article today, Colleges Cut Men’s Programs to Satisfy Title IX did not mention that both the National Federation of State High School Associations and the NCAA report all-time highs in sports participation. Schools continuously drop and add male and female sports, but the overall trend is upwards, not downwards.

As we’ve written before, that claim is inaccurate. The use of strict gender quotas that have been harming men’s athletics has been limited thus far to colleges and universities, not high schools (although it’s clear the National Women’s Law Center would like them to), so citing the data from the National Federation of State High School Associations is irrelevant.

As for the NCAA data, it relies on some statistical sleight of hand. As the College Sports Council pointed out in a 2007 study, the growth in male athletic participation in the NCAA was attributable to the growth in member institutions, not organic growth in the number of athletes and teams. When the growth in the NCAA was taken into account, a 25-year pattern of eliminating male athletic opportunities was revealed.

It also failed to make clear that the law never requires schools to cut a sports team.

Well, the law might not read that way, but the practical implications of how it is enforced has often led schools to conclude that cutting men’s teams is the easiest way to comply with the law. Again, as we’ve written previously, the combination of the decision in the case of Brown vs. Cohen with 1996 guidance from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that created a “safe harbor” for the use of proportionality has led to the elimination of hundreds of men’s teams. In fact, we can trace the elimination of the men’s track team at Delaware directly to that decision by OCR.

Men’s sports teams have lost virtually all cases alleging “quota” and “reverse discrimination.”

Sure, but that one exception was a doozy. It came from the University of Kansas after a former member of the men’s swim team filed a complaint that the university was discriminating against male athletes (odd that Nancy Hogshead-Makar would fail to mention this, as the complaint was filed by Ron Neugent, one of her male teammates on the 1980 US Olympic swim team). And while the situation at Kansas might not be exactly like the one at Delaware, some folks are already beginning to notice the similarities. Furthermore, with female enrollment nationwide rapidly approaching 60%, how much longer will the courts continue to consider women to be the “underrepresented” gender on campus.

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