Gender equity plan for U athletics includes

by Amy Olson

Varsity female athletes could be rowing their boats down the Mississippi River as soon as the 2000-01 academic year under part of University President Mark Yudof’s plan to ensure gender equity between men’s and women’s athletics.
The plan will also combine the budgets for men’s and women’s athletics — putting control of the funding under the control of McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics — and create a process for evaluating how the University’s athletics programs should grow while protecting gender equity.
While the fiscal aspects of the two departments will be combined, each department will retain its identity and services, Boston said.
The women’s athletic department’s budget will increase next year from $8.8 million to $9.9 million, while funding for men’s athletics will increase from $20.1 million to $20.5 million.
Yudof’s overall plan is intended to keep the University in compliance with Title IX, the 1972 law designed to end sex discrimination in athletics. Boston said merging the departments’ budgets is part of a comprehensive approach to creating greater stability in women’s athletics.
Adding a varsity women’s rowing team will help the University narrow the gap between the number of male and female athletes. During the 1998-99 academic year, the University has 398 male athletes, while its women’s teams have just 277 athletes.
Officials estimate 61 percent of the University’s athletes are male; the new team would add 60 to 80 new female athletes, bringing the gender difference closer to a 50-50 balance. Such a move would raise the number of female athletes to as many as 357.
Rowing will become the University’s 12th women’s varsity sport; there are 11 varsity men’s sports.
Women’s athletics director Chris Voelz said the selection committee chose to recommend adding rowing because it would provide opportunities for a large number of women, helping the University combat the gender imbalance in athletics.
Crew is one of 30 club sports at the University. Voelz said female rowers have wanted the University to establish the sport at the varsity level for more than 20 years.
Rowing would be the third varsity sport added to the University’s women’s athletics department in the last six years. Women’s soccer was added in 1993, while an ice hockey team was formed in 1997.
“We’ve got a great venue for it,” Boston said, adding that the varsity team, much like the existing club, would be able to train and compete on the Mississippi.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Boston said.
The addition would make the University the sixth school in the Big Ten to have a varsity rowing team, allowing the conference to hold a championship regatta. Voelz said the National Collegiate Athletic Association already holds a national tournament in the sport.
Boston said he expects Voelz will hire a coach next year and then begin recruiting.
Men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart said the rowing team would be one of the department’s bigger sports in terms of number of athletes as well as finances. The team could offer up to 20 scholarships, which could raise the overall budget.