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Savran: Title IX issues need revisiting

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Behind every successful man, there's a woman responsible for his success. Or so they say. Or used to.

It's obsolete now, because these days, women are plotting and executing their own success, not necessarily doing it for their significant other.

But there might be one instance where it still applies.

College athletics.

Because women might be indirectly responsible for the spate of executions of men's athletic programs around the country. I say indirectly because the real culprit is Title IX, which was developed to ensure gender equity in college athletics.

That legislation in and of itself isn't the sole reason male athlete's opportunities are being eliminated. The lousy economy is a huge factor. And much of the mandated equity contained in the legislation is based on equal athletic opportunity proportionate to the percentage of male/female enrollment.

So the increasing number of women enrolled in colleges and universities has skewed the numbers. But the core of the problem is that the well-intentioned philosophy of equal opportunity for female athletes doesn't work in practical application, at least not as Title IX is written.

College athletics were designed to be another extracurricular activity, like the band and debate team. That was nearly a century ago. But just like the fashions of the day, altruism went out of style when university administrators realized that money -- vast amounts of it -- could be made.

Sports went from being an outlet for some fun and a little profit to big business. And when philosophy meets harsh economic reality, something's got to give, which is why men's athletic programs have been dragged to the gallows.

To stem a potential flood of estrogen, I strongly believe women should have opportunity in sports. The intent of Title IX was to give them an equal opportunity to compete. But competing isn't the same as competing on the same level as men.

Economic reality won't allow it.

If the men's basketball team draws 12,000 fans to a game, and the women draw 300, how can a university maintain an economic equilibrium if both programs get equal funding?

I'm not talking about one team staying in better hotels or receiving more meal money than the other. I'm not talking about having an athletic trainer traveling with the men's team but not the women's team. Those things should be equal.

But based on the revenue each team generates, if both the men's and women's basketball team have to go to Philadelphia to play a game maybe the men should fly and the women take the bus.

That's not gender bias, it's fiscal responsibility.

Frankly, the money the men's program produces is partially funding the women's program anyway. And maybe the money you save would help save the men's wrestling team.

Title IX mandates that women be given equal opportunity to compete, but nowhere does it say what the competition should be.

Does it make sense to put Penn State's women's volleyball or field hockey teams on airplanes to Iowa or Minnesota, when they could compete against Lafayette or Maryland or Pitt?

Clearly, the most expedient way to remedy the problem is to make football exempt from the equation and start your male/female athlete count with programs that field both men's and women's teams.

Title IX was a good idea whose time had come. It remains a concept worth embracing, but one that needs rethinking and rewriting.

There is a need for sports to be governed more by the way things are, not the way some people want them to be.

Title IX was designed to promote fair and equal opportunity. Hooray!

But now, in the name of fairness and equality, men's programs are being eliminated to accommodate it.Where's the fairness in that? Why isn't Martha Burk protesting the obvious gender inequity here? Or does gender inequity exist only when it's biased against women?


Stan Savran is the hosts of a sports talk show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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