Title IX: Unjustly Blamed

Men’s collegiate sports teams are being cut at colleges and universities nationwide. The schools claim the teams are being cut to stay in compliance with Title IX. But is Title IX really to be blamed?

Annette Smith with Head Coach Jody Conradt, holding the National Championship trophy, after winning the 1986 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament (Courtesy Susan Allen Sigmon)


On January 19, 2011, the University of Delaware cut two men’s sports teams: cross country and outdoor track and field. Bernard Muir, UD’s athletic director at the time, said the move was to stay in compliance with Title IX. Moreover, UD is not the only college cutting men’s sports. Just recently, the University of North Dakota cut two of their men’s teams. UND’s athletic director, Brian Faison, said that Title IX was a factor in the school’s decision to cut the programs.

Title IX has become a common explanation as to why men’s collegiate sports teams are being cut. So how could a federal law that promotes gender equality like Title IX create an inequality for men?

The truth of the matter is that Title IX unjustly shoulders the blame for the cutting of men’s sports teams, and college athletic departments only have themselves to blame. Mismanaged athletic budgets lead to the termination of men’s teams. College athletic departments are simply too proud to admit it, so they make Title IX their scapegoat. This was the case for both the University of Delaware and the University of North Dakota. UD cut two men’s teams in order to pour more money into its football program. UND cut two men’s teams as part of a $2.4 million budget cut within its athletics department. Title IX was unfortunately being used as a diversion for the real reason behind why these teams were cut. Title IX is not the problem; the problem lies within the budgets of collegiate athletic departments.

The Facts

Title IX was created in 1972 to end gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance. This law created countless opportunities for females nationwide. The law has made massive strides in advancing gender equality, especially when it comes to women’s sports. Participation has grown exponentially. Between 1971 and 1998, the number of women participating in college sports rose from 30,000 to 167,000, with most of this increase occurring after 1981.” Thanks to Title IX, many young women were given the chance to play sports where women previously could not participate.

1915 George Washington University Women’s Basketball Team (Unknown Source)

Unfortunately, Title IX came with some unintended consequences. Since its creation, there has been a decrease in men’s teams in college sports. The College Sports Council collected 25 years of data from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). This is what they found.

“The number of female athletes per school increased by 34 percent and the number of women’s teams also increased by 34 percent. During the same time period, male athletes per school fell by 6 percent and men’s teams by 17 percent.”

With this evidence, it is understandable why people want to blame Title IX for the decrease in men’s sports teams.

Football: The Hidden Problem

It may be hard to believe that collegiate men’s sports are suffering from Title IX when the NCAA rakes in millions of dollars from television contracts. The two main sports that contribute to this figure are football and men’s basketball. Since these sports make the most money, athletic departments are willing to set aside the majority of the school’s athletic budget for these sports. However, most football and men’s basketball teams spend much more money than they bring in. A 2014 NCAA report shows that almost half of Division I-FBS football and men’s basketball programs do not generate enough revenue to pay for themselves, much less any other sports. The typical losing programs have annual deficits of almost $3.4 million and $1.2 million respectively.

In terms of equality, the problem with football is that there is no female analog. At least with college basketball, there are both men’s and women’s teams. Yet, there is no female sport that can counterbalance the sport of football in terms of scholarships and funding. Football has the highest budget of any other college sport. College football programs are also allowed to give up to 85 scholarships.

Courtsey rgmcfadden. 13 September 2008. Flickr. Creative Commons

However, words do not describe this discrepancy with football as well as numbers do. In September of 2015, the NCAA released the Revenues & Expenses report for Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs. The NCAA gathered the median athletic expenses of schools from 2009 to 2014. Not surprisingly, men’s expenses were more than women’s expenses. The difference between these expenses is mind-boggling. The median difference of expenses between men and women at Division I schools without football programs was $212,500. For Division I schools with football programs, the difference was a whopping $14,339,333! In other words, schools with football programs, on average, were willing to spend $14 million more on men’s athletics than a school without football. Schools with football programs allow football to consume the majority of the budget, thus leaving other teams with little to no money. Clearly, football is the problem.

The Solution

In Rethinking How Title IX Is Applied, Frank Deford suggests to separate football from college athletic departments. He proposes to put football under the category of entertainment or appeasement of the alumni. Doing this would be in line with Title IX since football has no female equivalent. Once football is separated, the sport no longer has to comply with Title IX.

Even with the separation of football, Title IX is not completely in the clear. U.S. Congress must revise Title IX so it supports not only equality between men and women, but equality between men’s sports teams and women’s sports teams. A new revision to Title IX should dictate that each school must have the same set amount of money allotted to each team based on the number of student-athletes on the team. Another rule should be that the male athlete-to-female athlete ratio should be exactly 50/50. With these new rules, women’s collegiate athletics would be exactly equal to men’s athletics in terms of funding and number of athletes.

In regard to football, a new law should not allow the football budget at a certain school to exceed 33% of the overall athletics budget. Thirty-three percent may seem like a lot of money and a significant portion of the athletics budget, but this is only a fraction of what football programs are used to spending. According to stats culled by Sports on Earth writer Patrick Hruby, at Rutgers, one of the slashed teams — men’s tennis — had a budget of $175,000, which is roughly what the football team spent on hotel rooms for its home games. And between 1986 and 2009, the average salaries of football coaches at 44 big-time programs rose from $273,000 to more than $2 million.” With these new rules in place, football budgets will not be outrageously high compared to the budgets of other sports teams.

With the revision to Title IX and a new law reducing football budgets, athletic departments will be forced to properly manage a budget. Football budgets will be kept in line with the other sports programs. Most importantly, these new rules will promote equality between both men’s and women’s sports just as Title IX was designed to do.

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