Friday, April 18, 2008

Dear UW baseball fans: Build a bridge...

...and get over it. The cutting of baseball that is. The University of Wisconsin cut the sport in 1991--17 years ago.

Yet every spring I come across all these young men pining for baseball. Not to play it--they want to watch it. They want to watch college baseball. Unfortunately, not that many people wanted to watch it when UW did have a team. But this guy, despite knowing the lack of popularity of the sport, longs for spring days in the stadium.

And this guy, who I think has written this same editorial before, blames Title IX of course. Though he does that tricky "I believe in gender equity and supporting women's sports but they aren't that exciting yet" thing so he doesn't come off as a complete chauvinist. Title IX came along and baseball got cut--for fairly good reasons--it wasn't that popular, trying to play baseball in Wisconsin is difficult given the lengthy winters, and they had a gender equity problem.

The writer thinks that "it seems like as long as any given athletic department makes significant strides to expand its women’s sports programs, it is in compliance with Title IX." And he is right. That is prong 2. But what constitutes "significant strides" is up to interpretation. In 1991 when UW cut baseball my guess, though I don't know the school's history, is that they added a women's sport which constituted "making a stride" toward equity at that time. Because it is unlikely that in 1991 they had achieved substantial proportionality. The thing with making strides is that 1) you have to keep doing it--you can't add a sport in 1991 and call it equity. And 2) if you make enough strides, eventually you hit prong 1 or 3.

At least he doesn't think all us Title IX advocates are crazy feminists:

The funny thing is, Title IX advocates frown upon the deletion of men’s sports to compensate for attention given to women’s. In no part of the amendment does it require athletic departments to eliminate men’s sports programs, if you read the three-prong test. So my question is: Why can’t UW have a baseball team? The UW football roster is at 120. Take away just 30 of those players--which still leaves you all your scholarship athletes (at 80) and you can field a baseball team--probably for cheaper too than keeping those extra players (and yes, I do see them as "extra") on the football roster.

Another issue that came up, not in the the editorial just in thinking about the issue, was where the women's opportunities are; how they are distributed. Many schools, to compensate for or balance out the number of opportunities provided by football, institute women's crew. UW has both men's and women's crew, which makes it all the more difficult to achieve equitable opportunities. But women's crew is huge at 173 participants. I love women's crew. Women's crew teams have a reputation for being politically active (in part because they get the short end of the athletic stick often) and it offers a great opportunity for women to get involved in a sport that 1) you don't often have access to in your youth, and 2) that you can continue participating in well after college. But 173 people on a crew team seems excessive. Not because I think those women don't want to be involved or aren't serious about their sport, but because it looks like the athletic department is engaging in roster inflation. What is the quality of the experience for these women? Do they pack up 173 women every time they travel to a regatta? Can a normal-sized coaching staff really give adequate attention to all participants?

I am glad that women's crew has grown because of Title IX, but at what cost? In addition to seemingly enlarged rosters, there are the ubiquitous issues of facilities (University of Iowa just broke ground on a boathouse promised to women's crew over 5 years ago) and proper funding. I am sure we are not done dealing with those.

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