Questions, not answers raised about Title IX

The entire college sports world is still trying to figure out who won or lost last week’s Title IX fight in Washington.

Over the past three decades, though, women’s sports — and girls’ sports — have been a clear winner based on the eventual application of the 1972 federal law.

“What I tell my kids is, ‘I would love to be 18 years old again and have the opportunities you have,’ ” Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Yvette Baggett said.

After graduating from Gar-Field, Baggett spent a year attending classes at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus. She then played at Old Dominion University from 1975-77.

“When I graduated, Title IX was enacted but it wasn’t being enforced,” Baggett remembered. “My high school coach was trying to get me into Lynchburg College or [James] Madison, but Lynchburg was a little too expensive.

“The game has come a long way. Now you look at Old Dominion, Connecticut, Tennessee and a bunch of other programs and they have unbelievable facilities and top-notch travel.”

Hylton girls’ soccer coach Steve Smith, who also leads the Under-18 and Under-15 Prince William Cardinals travel teams, added, “It’s definitely given the girls who have played soccer at Hylton and on travel teams the chance to play at schools they never would have in the past.”

Yet even Baggett doesn’t like one by-product of Title IX. Any men’s sport other than football or basketball has hit the endangered species list.

“Doing away with men’s programs — that, I have a problem with,” Baggett said. “That shouldn’t have been the result of Tile IX. I want females to have those opportunities, but I don’t want it to be at the cost of others.”

To fund athletic budgets — many of which operate in the red — the 85 football scholarships apparently can’t be touched. No women’s sports offer more than ice hockey’s 18 scholarships. Even with New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida breaking the Division I-A gender barrier in the past bowl season, it takes a complete women’s ice hockey team, women’s field hockey team, women’s softball team, women’s crew team, women’s track team and women’s golf team to equal the scholarships of one football team. And 25 years ago, college football teams used 95 scholarships.

“Football is the main money-maker, so I’m not sure if taking anything away from them would be the answer,” Baggett said.

Cutting scholarships for entire sports, such as men’s wrestling or men’s swimming, became a popular method of keeping men’s and women’s athletic scholarships in line with enrollments. At the University of Virginia two years ago, several men’s sports were classified as “fourth tier” sports and faced extinction. The outcry from that recommendation helped save those teams (and get a new stadium built for baseball), but the same can’t be said for more than a half-dozen collegiate wrestling programs in the state.

“In Virginia, it really has made a dent in local wrestling,” said Thad Kiesnowski, who retired as Brentsville’s wrestling coach following last season. “There was a time where we had the opportunity to send kids to Richmond or William & Mary, but now they have to look out of state.

“Who really got hurt is the marginal kid who could’ve wrestled some place in college — Division II or NAIA and maybe even gotten some [scholarship] money in some of those programs — but now that’s no longer available to them.”

Kiesnowski wouldn’t mind seeing football excluded from the formula for determining each schools’ male and female scholarship totals, now dependent on the male-female ratio of all students. Under the current system, a school such as Georgia Tech (more than two-thirds male) can have little trouble meeting Title IX while North Carolina (with a female majority), a tradition-rich school for women’s athletes from Mia Hamm to Charlotte Smith, has not always met the standard.

“I was extremely disappointed with the fact that [the presidential commission] didn’t come out and at least make some changes to the proportionality factor,” Kiesnowski said. “Over the years, I don’t know of a good women’s athlete that hasn’t been offered a scholarship in this county.”

While he was at Brentsville, Kiesnowski was a head coach in girls’ soccer, girls’ track and girls’ cross country. He doesn’t want scholarships taken away from women’s teams — and Baggett doesn’t want them taken away from wrestling.

And that’s the most unfortunate side effect of Title IX. To get fairness, we’ve had to see discrimination. If only James Naismith were around to invent an 85-scholarship women’s sport.

Lacy Lusk is a staff writer for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Readers can e-mail him at [email protected] or contact him at (703) 878-8059.

Similar Posts