Thursday, May 03, 2007

Deford strikes and incites--again

I have mentioned previously that I go hot and cold on Frank Deford who provides a piece every Wednesday on NPR's Morning Edition. Yesterday's (and the written version which is at is about Title IX. And I am now decidedly cold.
I am not going to go into all the problems with Deford's assessment of the situation, most egregiously his belief that Title IX requires proportionality. (Will sports writers ever learn what Title IX really is?) He does trot out again his potential solution that college sports be deemed entertainment--which would basically give athletic departments carte blanche.
What was really disturbing was the collection of comments from readers posted on a blog, sponsored by FanNation, linked from the site.
There were some smart comments from Title IX supporters that attempted to show how these cuts anti-IXers are bemoaning are really all about economics and institutional priorities: basketball and football. But people still cry out about how this "equality" (they often think equality and equity are the same thing) is anything but fair and that football should be exempt from Title IX because it's just different. That's it--different. Why is football different? Why isn't tennis "just different"? Oh, because football is better, that's what you really want to say without insulting say male lacrosse players or baseball players.
And of course there is the "but football generates revenue while other sports lose money" rationale. How people feel entitled to make claims without even looking at any evidence just baffles me. The majority of intercollegiate football programs in this country LOSE MONEY. It does not matter how much money they generate through ticket sales, apparel, concessions, etc.; their costs exceed their revenue. (I am bookmarking this post because I have a feeling I may have to say this again.)
Kurt Austin (the name given in his profile), a student at JMU (whose cutting of 10 sports Defrod cites), wrote a lengthy comment about the situation at his institution, which, although he himself is not an athlete has "many friends who are being effected(sic) by Title IX." Austin has some good points about the injustice of the nationally recognized "archery teams (mens [sic] and womens [sic])" being cut. I think it's tragic that a school would cut any teams let alone ones that have national reputations.
But Title IX is not the reason JMU cuts those two teams. They are spending their money on facilities and football. (These facts will come out if this Equity in Athletics--note the irony of an anti-Title IX group using the term equity--case gets anywhere.) They had priorities that apparently did not include fostering the skills of potential Olympic-caliber archers. And that is JMU's fault--not Title IX's or any of us wacky feminists who support it.
I haven't taken a poll but I don't think feminists are anti-archery. In fact, Geena Davis, who is a Title IX and women's sports advocate, is an archer. We are not anti-men's sports either. Our utopia does not include a world where only women play sports and men are cheerleaders who bake cream-filled cupcakes to sell at our games. Our utopia is a place where a male football player looks at the conditions under which a female field hockey player trains, competes, is recruited, and travels and says "I can--and will--work in these conditions too."


Anonymous said...

Rather than address the feelings that the student put out there, you feel the need to hack away at someone's punctuation ... on the Internet of all places. Last time I checked, we weren't graded on what we posted on a weblog or a reply, so why should you be so high and mighty to judge what a college student likely wrote between updating his iPod and checking his facebook?

Back to the point ... Sportswriters will often point to proportionality because that is the ONLY place women's groups deem "acceptable compliance" with the law. Women's groups will point to the fact there has never been a survey or study conducted that shows women are less interested in sports than men are -- however, when there's a chance to bring that data forth -- with Prong 3's interest surveys -- it's the end of the world for people like Donna Lopiano and their slippery slope of Title IX un-control.

Now, how about some common sense for once. I'm not saying football should be held in any different area than any other sport. Having gone to a college without football, it's nice to have non-rev athletes as the folks you hang with, not underplayed meatheads soaking up funds because they can "long snap."

The one thing that Title IX, with all its well-intentioned scenarios, is missing, is common sense. No, not when fighting about ballfields, because fairness is one thing. Groomed fields vs. dirt lots is something Title IX has done great at rectifying, however, when it comes to college athletics, more men will show up to walk on for teams than women will. Another fact D-Lo and friends will challenge because there's "no study"

I'm not against Title IX, just against what it's perverted sense of interpretation has done to STUDENT-athletes.

JMU is a prime case, and yes, that was all about Title IX, and they had the spine to say it?

This will be another Brown case.

Gender Blank said...


To which "women's groups" are you referring? All the women and groups I know who have been on the Title IX battlefield, so to speak, have emphasized that there are three prongs that are equally acceptable routes to compliance. It would be convenient for your argument if what you said were true, but your saying it doesn't make it so. You hear what you want to hear, apparently.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, about two years ago, the Bush administration (Not a fan) signed an order that emails may be used to gauge interest and therefore opportunities. Make sense right? Donna Lopino's WOMENS' Sport Foundation mobilized many professional female athletes (I use that term loosely) to combat the schools right to use this procedure for the interest test. Now this wasn't even requiring that the women had participated, or require that they would, just that they would think about it.

The athletes complained what a hardship email was. I guess they would've thrown a bigger fit if the girls were actually required to show up. I say the number of supported athletes mirrors the intramural program at the school or in high school, everyone that can get a team and a coach can play, and then it whittles down based on that ratio. Intra murals and private leagues can operate with flexible numbers of teams, so can high schools.

Not only that, every Title IX report I've seen lists two main pieces of data: proportion participating and funding. If women's groups *actually* cared about equality, all three tests' data would be supplied. I for one would like a definitive number of how many boys are cut or forced to club teams JUST to maintain quotas. Missouri has SEVEN club leagues for the male sports that have not been approved by the state. Recently the girls had one, lacrosse, but even with fewer teams and fewer participants, and shorter history, it was sanctioned before boys' lacrosse, ice hockey, and roller hockey.

There are studies about participation, WSF just refuses to accept them and won't do their own to prove people wrong. I've seen three and the average is that boys participate in sports roughly 40% more than girls. (high: 49%, low 32%, one at a 5:3 ratio. I did not account for sample size)

I wonder what the Feminist organizations say when the boys cross country team says "Gee, we'd like the same type of facilities and perks the girls basketball team gets" Heck, all those club teams would be thrilled with half of the support the girls' basketball team gets. Football is different because of its popularity. That's why tennis isn't. Even if it isn't always profitable, it does bring the community together more than any other sport and in colleges helps garner donations and applications. When was the last time your local high school's tennis team brought out a stadium full of fans? Before you start assuming I'm a football fan, I was with the water polo team and volleyball team. Our coronation dance fit into the football and soccer schedule, but was the night of the water polo state finals every year for my four years. My volleyball team had to wear old soccer jerseys because the school wouldn't give us enough money for new ones while girls were fully funded.

Besides, no reason girls can't play football anymore.

But they don't allow boys, no matter how small they are, to play field hockey. Did you know an 87 pound boy is more dangerous than a 150 pound girl?

EBuz said...

jb apparently didn't get that ken was using the grammar issue to critique Deford's attempt to perpetuate a stereotype that boys are dumb. Poor ken. You try to throw a bone to the men's rights crowd and they crucify you for that too!


The Bush administration ... signed an order that emails may be used to gauge interest and therefore opportunities. Make sense right?

Uh, no.

Under the interest survey policy, women have to show up at college, unrecruited, yet talented and interested enought to play competitive sport. Then they have to dig through their email and respond to a survey (in sufficient numbers to field a team) to declare their interest in a team that does not yet exist at that school. Only then might the school have to consider adding teams for women. Meanwhile, men who already have higher opportunity rates than women get recruited to come play (not to mention lured with higher proportion of scholarship dollars). Do you really expect a policy like this to do anything more than perpetuate this disparity at any university where it is applied?

Gender Blank said...

Sorry to prolong the debate, but I just wanted to point out to jb that women's groups have never been opposed to Prong 3 per se. What they have opposed is using e-mail surveys to prop it up. As ebuz noted, the interest level you're likely to find on campus through an e-mail survey is predetermined by the programs already offered and the recruiting that has taken place (that is, none).

If a school were interested in adding a major, an e-mail survey of current students about their interest in the subject would be a very poor indicator of actual or potential interest in that major. Students who are interested in that particular major have likely chosen a college where it already exists and are unlikely to just be hanging around your campus waiting for someone to offer it. But if the major were offered, and high school students were recruited for it, there would be marked increase in interest and ability among the student body.

Interest is not created in a vacuum. Interested parties go where the opportunities are. All an e-mail survey will do is confirm that the interested parties are not on your campus. And it will tell you that year after year. The net effect is that colleges will never have to change, and women will get no closer to equal opportunity.

If men were the underrepresented sex, you can bet "men's groups" would argue that this is no way to comply with either the letter or the spirit of a gender equity law. And for good reason.

Anonymous said...

The women's groups that I mainly speak of are the Women's Sports Foundation. It's initial stages, much like Title IX, was great, now the group is being perverted by power-hungry man-haters like D-Lo.

The basic premise is this: Come out against Title IX and you want to set the women's sports movement back 30 years, when that's simply not the case.

"I hear what I want to hear?" That's fine, but you can't tell D-Lo anything that's contrary to her opinion or you're a woman hater and want women in the kitchen, which simply is not true.

I lived with college athletes during my time in school, both male and female. I was always there watching every team at my school compete. I'm all for women's sports and women's programs, but right now, men that play anything other than football or basketball will find themselves without teams.

It's becoming reverse discrimination. Girls have 10-14 sports to choose from at the college level at many Division I schools. Men generally have six. And they still show up in greater numbers?

It's a no-win debate, but I enjoy discussing it with people that can express a point. So no ill will here Gender Blank, I just feel that those consumed with passing the buck on Title IX killing sports and blaming others is about as solid as standing on a sheet of newspaper expecting it to hold.

Title IX's got great things associated with it, but for every title won and the girls and women that bust their butts ... they need to realize that now, their sports are here to stay, and it's less about Title IX than it is about those girls and women that worked hard and were talented.

What got you into school? Title IX? That's basically telling Kara Lawson that her basketball talents didn't get her recruited to Tennessee. See the point there?

Always a fiesty topic, and Ken, you have a solid blog here.

Gender Blank said...

Girls have 10-14 sports to choose from at the college level at many Division I schools. Men generally have six. And they still show up in greater numbers?

I think you're being a bit disingenuous with your argument here.

In 2000-01 in all divisions, the average number of teams per institutions was 7.5 for men and 8.0 for women. There are more total women’s teams yet more male participants because there are more males per team. In 2000-01, there were 7,737 men’s teams with a total of 206,573 participants and 8,312 women’s teams with a total of 149,115 participants.
(Source: NCAA 1982-2001 Sports Sponsorship Participation Report)

If you want to argue that someone is robbing men of their opportunities to play a sport, it's time to start looking at the bloated football rosters that shelter an average of 115 players per team at the Division 1-A level, lots of whom will never see playing time. Or at the five coaches used to coach fifteen athletes in basketball. There are definitely some fat cats here who somehow are escaping your critical gaze.

I agree that male athletes in so-called minor sports are getting shafted at a lot of colleges, but it is a result of their institutions prioritizing excess for two sports over fairness for all others. Men still have over 50,000 more opportunities than women and receive more than twice as much of the recruting and overall program dollars as women. And a big majority of that excess goes to football. If schools would cap the number of scholarship positions they allowed in football, they could spend that money and those participation slots on other men's sports.

Title IX is not the problem. The problem is that institutions, when faced with tough decisions between what is popular and what is right, often choose popular.

Anonymous said...

Title IX isn't the entire problem, its interpretation that's allowed things to get out of control like this is the problem.

Now, you point to the 50,000 more "opportunites" out there for men, but there's more womens teams and how many of those 50,000 opportunites are football players that never see the field?

So while that's deemed an "opportunity", why is roster management played so much.

Men's teams are capped, women's teams are encouraged to carry more players. Only one sport with equivalency gives men more scholarships (lacrosse).

Seems like there's more "scholarship opportunity" for women in every sport except football, wrestling and lacrosse -- the first two because there's no female equivalent and the third because they allow more schollies.

It's all in the interpretation. Norma Cantu's "safe harbor" was the death-knell for many "at risk" programs from schools that couldn't do the right thing.

The sad fact is that a roster spot is considered an opportunity. If the women's soccer team can carry 22 players, but only 18 are on the team, that's only 18 "opportunities" when in actuality, it's 22, accounting for four lost "opporunities" that aren't counted.

Schools are shifting and skewing things everywhere, and two opposite groups can look at the OCR's numbers and get what they want out of them.

JMU's cutting 10 sports, all non-scholarship, all kids paying to go to school there. 61% female (which actually goes back to Deford's comments about boys not getting into college.)

JMU's not admitting nearly as many men as women and for a former women's school, it's just cutting more and more ways men want to go. With the loss of 7 mens sports, that's a large group of potential admissions that won't even apply because they can't go there to compete.

I could dig up stats upon stats, but like I said, you can look at stats and see it your way, i can look at them and see it mine. Arguing statistical semantics won't get us anywhere.

Do you think the law needs to involve more common sense? Yes or No?

ken said...

So I have capitulated to the patriarchy for fear of being deemed a termagant and taken out the explicit redressing of JMU student's bad grammar. Because, although I was indeed trying to point out one of Deford's presumptions about intelligence in boys, I did have problems with his assertions but no desire to address them here. But I will say what I always tell my students: how you present yourself through written word matters to those who are reading it and making assumptions about you based on your writing skills--both content and grammar.
Continue on with the hearty discussion and thanks for keeping it clean.

EBuz said...

I'm all for common sense approach to Title IX. So I agree with gender blank. Where is the common sense in 120-man football rosters?

Even JB admits that many of these guys "never see the field." So why don't schools cap their football teams so that they can use a limited athletics budget to offer more (than, say, 6) men's sports? Why don't schools value the top 10 wrestlers more than the ten worst football players?

I'm not saying this to disparage walk-on football players, but if I had to rank my priorities, I'm going to side with people (women and men in other sports) who have proportionately fewer opportunities to play.

Gender Blank said...

Termagant, huh? Methinks someone has been reading Feministing today.

ken said...

Actually I saw it on Feministing after I posted. I get the word of the day from and have been itching to use it ever since.

Anonymous said...

As for the email, I'm not saying the guys shouldn't be subject to it also. How many men show up at colleges expecting to have to pay for their sports?

If not, base it on the number that show up and participate in the school's intramurals.