Syracuse University announced the other day that they are adding women's ice hockey to their list of intercollegiate sports. They plan to start in 2008 and are still looking at which conference to join. Unfortunately they are cutting men's and women's swimming and diving which both have long histories (men's team began in 1915 and the women's in the mid-70s). This article off the AP makes it sound like a purely financial decision. The swimming facilities at SU are in disrepair and new natatorium would cost the university $35 million. Swimming isn't a huge sport in the Big East and Syracuse has had limited success in the pool. Women's ice hockey is an emerging sport and it is popular in that area of the country and Syracuse will have plenty of nearby opponents. Facilities will remain an issue, though. Syracuse does not have a men's team and thus no rink. Of course because hockey is so popular, there are rinks in the area. The university is looking into where the team will practice and play games.
This press release from the university does mention Title IX though. The addition of ice hockey is presented as part of a larger, long-term restructuring of the department that will "enhance" gender equity. Currently the university operates under prong two, history and continuing practice of expansion (they added three women's sports between 1996-2000). But according to athletic department administrators, the addition of ice hockey will bring about proportionality in the 2008-2009 season.
There is a pretty vocal swimming community that has some issues with Title IX because they see it as responsible for the cuts of teams and they have vigorously campaigned against and bemoaned the cutting of teams at JMU and Rutgers. It will be interesting to see what comes from these cuts. Swimming World Magazine online has already started collecting comments about the cuts. None of the comments to date have blamed Title IX.