Millersville U. Can’t Run Away from the Problem

There’s been no shortage of drama surrounding Millersville University’s February announcement that it would axe men’s indoor and outdoor track and field and men’s cross country. Though the school’s official statement emphasized budget reasons (“The University will realize approximately $200,000 in savings”), it also mentioned, albeit briefly, Title IX enforcement.

As is the usual trajectory of events following team cuts, former and present athletes released statements expressing disappointment; protests ensued (heck, even their competitors showed up to challenge the decision); and the school responded with bland, non-informative comments.

Well, it looks like we were right: Title IX is the underlying reason for Millerville’s decision to cut opportunities for dedicated male track athletes. How do we know that?

The school turned down an offering of $300,000 from a generous alumni to save outdoor track and cross country (indoor track would be club). According to the Lancaster Online, Janet Kacskos, Millersville University’s spokeswoman, wrote, “the money offered is not a solution to the budget issues facing the university as a whole.” In other words, if this predicament was solely because of the budget, a donation to cover the costs of those teams for the next three years would be the immediate, favored solution. In fact, alumni were even starting to “look for permanent funding.”

So, there has to be another way to explain why the administration turned down the money: Title IX.

For Millersville University, cutting 3 teams is all about reigning in the number of male athletes to resemble the overall percentage of males in the student population. Lancaster Online further explains: “Kacsckos said that while there haven’t been any formal complaints, Title IX compliance is a concern. Under the law she said, athletic participation by gender should mirror enrollment, and Millersville’s is about reversed.”

No matter how strongly students, alumni, the community and outside organizations mobilize, Millersville University has made it clear that it is not interested in saving those 3 teams. It is not looking to rely on another, more fair way to comply with Title IX, like surveying interest and demonstrating history. And it is not going to level with those most affected.

Unfortunately, this reality is ubiquitous. Disheartened, passionate students rally to save their teams by fundraising — what they think is the obvious defense against budget tightening — only to be told that their efforts are pointless because the cuts are really due to skewed Title IX enforcement measures.

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