|Thursday, December 19
Updated: February 27, 2:18 PM ET
Proposed changes could 'deny women equal access'
WASHINGTON -- Proponents of women's athletics argued Thursday that changes under consideration to the 30-year-old law requiring gender equity in collegiate sports would set back women's sports.
A Title IX commission formed by Education Secretary Rod Paige discussed several possible changes when it met in Philadelphia earlier this month.
One would require a 50-50 proportion of male and female athletes, with some leeway allowed depending on each school's circumstances. The commission will meet Jan. 8 to vote on ways to make it easier for universities to comply with the law.
The Title IX proponents worry it will give back too much.
"Such proposals would permanently deny women equal access to play sport,'' Christine Grant, women's athletics director at the University of Iowa, told a conference call sponsored by the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education.
Male athletes have little to complain about, said Athena Yiamouyiannis, executive director of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports.
"The system is being rigged to provide greater advantage to an already advantaged population,'' Yiamouyiannis said. "This is both wrong and un-American.''
Title IX has greatly increased opportunities for women's athletics over three decades, but opponents argue that men's sports are suffering as universities try to comply.
Yiamouyiannis pointed out that 10 of the 15 members of Paige's panel come from Division I-A schools. Those schools are most likely to have large football and basketball programs that often cause an imbalance in the money spent on men's and women's sports.
"The Department or Education has clearly stacked the deck from the start, with individuals representing the wealthier, more powerful institutions who have a vested interest in weakening the law in order to comply,'' Yiamouyiannis said.
The law's most controversial measuring stick requires the percentage of women participating in sports to be roughly equal to the proportion of female students in the school.
That has led many schools to cut men's sports. So many wrestling teams have been dismantled that the National Wrestling Coaches Association has filed a lawsuit seeking a ban on the proportionality standard.
Page formed the commission in response to the lawsuit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Andrew Zimbalist, author of several books on sports economics, argued that less popular men's sports could be salvaged if universities stopped the football "arms race'' that has led to massive spending on stadiums, coaches and extras such as a hotel rooms for teams the night before home games.
"NFL teams have 53-man rosters,'' Zimbalist said. "The average Division I-A team has 32 walk-ons plus 85 scholarship players. If football scholarships were cut to 60, the average college would save $750,000 annually -- enough to finance more than two wrestling teams.'