Monday, April 17, 2006

My "Oh, dur" moment

[sorry for the lack of posts--I have been sick, sick, sick. But now seemingly on the mend so here is some stuff I have been meaning to post.]

I was talking with my father on the phone the other day. He had sent me an article about my alma mater, U of New Hampshire, which is cutting more athletic programs due to a budget shortfall. When I was a student, there were a series of cuts: baseball and men's lacrosse. This was due to budget of course and Title IX compliance. UNH was a prong II complier back then--they intended to show a history of continuing expansion of women's programs. Not sure where they are at now. My guess is still at prong II given they just cut women's crew which is usually what schools with easy access to a body of water will add because you can have huge rosters (to counter football). I highly doubt they have achieved substantial proportionality. [4/21--see Ebuz's comment about how wrong I was about this.]
Anyway--it's a pretty sad situation. Swimming and tennis are being cut as well and skiing is being downsized. Tennis I can kind of see going. But UNH has had a fairly successful swimming program and they already have a pool so facilities are not an issue.
Anyway the debate is not over which sports got cut in my mind rather answering the question why is football never blamed for any of this mess? Critics like to point to Title IX as the evil-doer--I, and others, prefer to take a magnifying glass--hell you don't even need a magnifying glass, it's right there for all to see--to football (and sometimes basketball--though not in UNH's case). Why why why why? I asked my father do they always fail to see that a roster of 100 football players is a waste. Cut that to 75 (and I am being generous given that NFL teams carry 50+) and you have a men's wrestling team, or a swim team and probably 2 tennis teams. Do you think those last 25 guys actually play during their 4 (or 5) years? No. Do you think they get things like training tables, apparel, trips to bowl games? Yep they do.
I hung up the phone dismayed at the state of intercollegiate athletics, finding it more and more difficult to reconcile being a fan of DivI sports and being a scholar whose work is based on the potential of sport to empower as well as alter hegemonic constructions of gender, sport, sexuality, etc.
Shuffling around the living room I inadvertently kicked a library book and there was my answer. The Stronger Women Get--The More Men Love Football--a book by Mariah Burton Nelson. Of course--football rarely is on the receiving end of substantial cuts (unless you are the Boston University football team that got cut in its entirety in the 1990s, which was not as big a deal as everyone thought it would be because they have a perennially strong men's hockey team). Football is the ultimate bastion of masculinity. Maintaining sport as a "male preserve" (Nancy Theberge's term) means protecting football at all costs. And those costs are to the male swimmers (after all they shave their legs), or to male wrestlers (a sport even more homoerotic than football--and with a history of being done in the nude in front of entirely male audiences) and of course to women's sports such as crew (take care of a bunch of women and lesbians all at once).
I wonder where the tipping point will be for DivI programs. UNH's athletic director pointed out that the school is still well above the minimum teams required of NCAA schools but that seems like little consolation to the current and potential future athletes that would have benefited from and been a benefit to the athletic, academic, and social environment at UNH.


Anonymous said...

Actually, you can't be a prong II complier if you've cut a health women's team. Under this compliance option, you literally have show a history and continuing practice of expanding women's sports. Courts have interpretted cutting women's teams as antithetical to "continuing" expansion.

I read that with the latest cuts UNH is finally at substantial proportionality under prong I.

I certainly don't take issue with your assessment of football, but I will add that it, too, is exceedingly homoerotic. After all, in what other game do men try to "penetrate" each other's "end zones" with their "balls"?

ken said...

Hehe--you said balls.
Thanks for thr reminder about prong II. I forgot about the caveat that you cannot cut a women's team.
I am a little worried though that all these cuts-of men's and women's sports--are what is needed to get to substantial proportionality.