Norwood Teague and Title IX

As a University of Minnesota alumna, former Gophers women’s volleyball coach for 13 years and a general supporter of the University, I am very concerned with the comments coming from Norwood Teague about Title IX.

In a June 4 article in the Star Tribune, it was reported that the Big Ten is adding lacrosse as a sport in 2015. When asked if that means the University will be adding lacrosse soon, University athletic director Norwood Teague replied, “It would be very difficult for us to talk about adding sports, especially on the men’s side because of Title IX.”

This is the second time I have heard him make this comment. The first time it was when he was asked about adding men’s varsity soccer. This guy leads our flagship collegiate athletics program in Minnesota. It is an outrageous statement on so many levels.

First, let’s blame women — through a not so subtle insinuation — for a federal law requiring equity in athletic opportunities. This is an age-old way of pitting women against the men, especially in non-revenue sports. Rather than disingenuously blaming Title IX, administrators like him know they can decide to divvy up the money so everyone gets by with a little less — just the way families have to manage. He could also choose to manage the rosters of men’s sports rather than have excessive numbers in sports like football which skew the comparison of participation opportunities.

Secondly, let’s be clear about the facts. The National Collegiate Athletic Association figures show that men’s collegiate athletics participation has increased, not decreased, since Title IX was passed. Women continue to be under-represented in collegiate sports. The gap between men’s and women’s sports participation and support is not closing. Also, it is the wealthiest athletics programs in NCAA Division I-A that are dropping men’s minor sports, typically because they are shifting these funds to compete in the football and men’s basketball arms race. Have you checked the salaries for these coaches lately?

Next, Teague, in addition to failing to take accountability for the way his own department chooses to spend its budget,  fails to acknowledge that Title IX does not require equal spending on men’s and women’s programs. And, one of the great myths of collegiate sports is that the revenue sports (usually football and men’s basketball) support all the other sports. The fact is that less than 12 percent of college athletics programs actually make a profit. Colleges and universities all over the country have to supplement collegiate athletics budgets, often at taxpayer expense.

Finally, Teague makes the totally out-of-touch assumption that the American public is not supportive of Title IX. In fact, more than 8 in 10 voters support Title IX with agreement across all political parties and among voters with and without children. The American public believes that sports participation is as important for our daughters as it is for our sons.