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Title IX giveth while schools begin taking away

April 22, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Timing is supposed to be everything.

It doesn't take strength for Tiger Woods to hit a 350-yard drive. It's more a case of precision and incredibily synchronized movement.

Face it, if you try to overpower a golf ball, it either hooks or goes about four feet. Believe me. I know. I've been the guinea pig of many unscientific experiments where I've found my ball in less than five steps.

Hitting home runs or drop shots and any number of throwing or shooting skills are controlled by reflex instead of muscle tone.

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The same could be said for the administrative side of our games. Reaction - mostly of the knee-jerk variety - seems to control our administrators and government on decision making.

Example: Recently, the issue of Title IX, the federal law banning gender discrimination at publicly funded schools, was brought up for a modernization check. After a bunch of meetings, a decision to toughen the law to increase equality for women's sports was made.

Title IX has created many opportunities for women athletes in the last 30 years - more than they would have probably recieved without the law.

Title IX requires the athletic scholarship money a school distributes to men and women be within one percent of each other or within one scholarship of the total athletic participation rates, whichever is greater.

Therefore, if there are an equal number of male and female athletes at a school, the women must recieve at least 49 percent of the scholarship dollars.

So, adding muscle to the law is the next step to keep the pace moving forward.

But at what expense?

The timing of this move is all wrong and will just create more problems than solutions. It should have been done five years ago.

In this time of rising prices and a failing economy, the new Title IX comes when it can ruin a great thing for everyone, especially when it deals with the lives and futures of athletes from non-revenue sports, who were probably politically unmotivated until now.

West Virginia University became the first of what could be many schools in the Big East Conference - and quite possibly across the country - to pay for the gender additions by overall subtraction.

WVU announced it will be eliminating the co-ed rifle team along with men's tennis, cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams.

In other words, if you are male and you run, head for the hills away from WVU. The only running you will see in Morgantown next season is from your dorm room faucet.

On Monday, Toledo announced it is dropping men's swimming and indoor and outdoor track due to budget shortfalls, but also to comply with Title IX.

At the risk of being chauvinistic, the new Title IX is like shoving a square peg in a round hole.

First, instead of adding more women athletes, schools like WVU will be cutting back on the number of men competitors. In the Mountaineers' purge, 56 athletes will lose their chance to compete. Only three of those are women.

Toledo will have 59 athletes - all male - out of competition.

Second, the non-revenue sports - the ones that don't require fans and alumni to come and pay to watch - are the first to go. Track, gymnastics, swimming and other such sports get axed, preventing these athletes the chance to win scholarship money to go to school.

And finally, the one reality that will give me a curly tail: Many other sports teams, including the ones for women, exist mainly because of the male-dominated football and basketball teams. They are the ones that draw the big television contracts, ratings and exposure to fuel athletic budgets. Try as women's basketball does, it has a long way to go to capture the imagination of fans the way the men's game does.

The new Title IX could have beendevised five years ago, when schools like WVU were crowing about their athletic budgets and were looking for ways to spend excess money. Back then, budget surpluses could have probably absorbed additional financial demands without putting one athlete off any team.

Now, when money is tight, it's easier to cut than it is to review the situation. WVU will save nearly $600,000 with their cuts; Toledo $478,000.

The whole idea of Title IX was to strike a blow for equality, to put women on the same level as men. Instead, the product of that equality is stunting the men's game instead of raising the level for women.

When timing is bad, everyone loses.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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