Gender-equity questions arise with hall of fame

by Kristin Gustafson

Photographs of football players inducted Saturday into the University’s hall of fame will settle into new, spiffed-up surroundings this winter.
After a seven-month delay — resulting from a new gender-equity analysis process for University improvements — the third phase of a $6 million Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex project is moving forward.
Following Board of Regent approval, the 2,600-square-foot men’s football entrance will get a $540,000 renovation to include custom displays, new lighting, wall murals and a state-of-the-art audio-video system to recruit top players and coaches.
To make this recruitment investment more equitable to that spent for women, the University is considering three entryway improvements in the Bierman Field Athletic Building, which houses many women’s athletics offices. A complete gender-equity solution will be presented to the regents by February 2000.
The issues related to the hall-of-fame improvements are just one example of what is addressed by the Gender Equity Impact Summary process.
To comply with Title IX, colleges must provide athletic opportunities, financial aid and qualitative benefits proportional to overall undergraduate enrollment. One of the benefits required to be similar under Title IX is recruitment.
But in 1997-98, only 30 percent of University recruitment dollars were spent to recruit female student-athletes. In that year, female students comprised 51 percent of the overall undergraduate enrollment.
So when men’s and women’s athletics directors reviewed the third phase of the Gibson-Nagurski proposal, they needed to analyze the plan for Title IX compliance.
After each director wrote an impact statement, the proposal received a financial analysis, legal review and administrative consideration.
“This was just designed to make sure nothing slipped between the cracks,” said University President Mark Yudof.
This case, the first University project to be reviewed under the gender-equity process, was approved with strings attached, bringing women’s athletics forward in addition to men’s.
“The institution has a legal responsibility to implement its athletic programs consistent with the law, and Title IX is the federal law that addresses this issue,” said McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics. Boston signs the gender-equity review process before it reaches Yudof and the regents.
A long wait
With the Gibson-Nagurski project, the University had to juggle two promises. The first was to female athletes and complying with Title IX. The second was a University pledge to men’s football coach Glen Mason to improve his facility.
“The promise was made to (Mason) when he was being recruited to take this position and to leave Kansas where obviously he had considerable success,” said Mark Dienhart, director of men’s athletics.
“We are the only school in the Big Ten that doesn’t have our own football facility, that doesn’t have our own arena,” Dienhart said of Mason’s request for “modest” improvements.
“I don’t know if we can get them completed before he starts the majority of his recruiting in December or January,” Dienhart said. “It is a process that certainly has some value, but … in this particular case, it had a real cost to it.”
Mason said the Gibson-Nagurski improvements are essential for men’s football to be competitive and is disappointed with the delay.
“It’s three years into the bargain now,” Mason said of the changes he requested when the University first recruited him. “If they’d said we can’t do that, I wouldn’t have taken the job.”
Two out of three phases he requested are completed — including first-class locker rooms, upgraded facilities, expanded weight-training facilities and a new entrance. Mason said he wanted an attractive, practical and durable facility.
When Mason, a coach for 27 years, was recruited, the University “stressed the importance of a winning football program.”
But because the University isn’t allocating as much money to its football program as other schools, Mason said it isn’t able to generate as much revenue to improve women’s sports.
“The idea is that the rich get richer,” Mason said, comparing the $6 million spent on the total Gibson-Nagurski project to the $184 million Ohio State recently spent on a new football stadium.
“I’m not an anti-gender-equity-issue person,” Mason said. “I’m just very practical in what has to be done with my business.”
“Sometimes with short-range discussions, solutions and ideologies, we lose sight of how are we going to get to where we want to be 10 years from now,” Mason said.
But the University is also committed to equalizing athletics for female student-athletes under Title IX. And women’s athletics have had to wait many years as well.
“It’s amazing that for 27 years the schools have not been able to figure out how to monitor (Title IX),” said Chris Voelz, director of women’s athletics. “As they do their Gibson-Nagurski project, we’re going to look at such symbolism and realism in Bierman.”
“I think it is becoming more and more important to have those touchstones to bring students to campus and be able to explain through bricks and mortar and signage and images that women are important,” Voelz added.
For the University in 1997-98, 30 percent of the University’s recruitment dollars went to women, a $65,000 discrepancy of what women’s athletics should have gotten, according to Title IX.
But the review process causes thinking to shift, Voelz said.
The new process allows the University to approve the third Gibson-Nagurski phase “even though we know the women have nothing like it, and they need it, and they don’t have any way to fund it,” Voelz said. “That’s OK … as long as they say, ‘Now in the next three years, we are going to have to do something,’ instead of not being aware of the chasm being widened.”
“We’ve long had the mandate, but not had the specific tools to get there,” Voelz said.
“When I was hired in Minnesota, I said, ‘Now don’t hire me if I’m to come in every day to fight for Title IX. Hire me only if you already believe in Title IX,” Voelz said. “But you know, people change, leadership changes and different pressures throughout more than a decade of time ebb and flow.”
After touring the athletics facilities, Regent Chairwoman Patricia Spence said she saw numerous gender inequities between weight-training facilities, coaching offices and other resources.
Spence said that although promises were made to Mason, regents are also committed to gender equity. “It’s a transition time, and everyone is adjusting to the new policy,” she said.
Strings attached
What would the University do if they can’t equalize a gift earmarked specifically for men’s athletics, such as the $2.3 million donated to Gibson-Nagurski?
Give it back.
For Mason, that doesn’t make sense. He said it would be better for the University “to work doubly hard and raise more money in the other areas.”
Dienhart would not want to give the gift back. “My goal has to be to attract gifts and income from a variety of sources, and if someone tells me I can’t accept … and I have to say no to them, that falls pretty hard on me and on the efforts we are trying to generate within our department.”
But Tracy Tyler, a senior in kinesiology, said the University should give back gifts that don’t make things equal. Historic inequalities in women’s athletics and unequal distribution of wealth “make it less likely for the women’s athletics department to get a gift of that quality.”
“I think they need to take the time to figure out what to do to equal things out on the women’s side before they build for the men,” Tyler said.
Boston said that while the University encourages donors to support both men’s and women’s athletics with their gifts, the University must turn restricted gifts away if the University can’t make it equal. “The institution has the obligation to make sure those gifts do not put our program out of Title IX compliance,” Boston added.
“We have to have a more global institutional view about how these gifts affect men and women,” he said. “If there is a negative implication of receiving that gift, we still have to address the implications,” Boston said.
A model plan
Although the University is at the bottom of the Big Ten in gender-equity compliance, the new process might lead other institutions to address equity issues.
“This is new,” Spence said. “We’re changing the culture.”
Dienhart agreed.
“In terms of fairness, this certainly provides the most opportunity for sunlight that any school in the Big Ten provides to any type of decision of this sort,” he said.
Other Big Ten schools are also struggling with compliance, Voelz said.
“They don’t know how to keep on pleasing the men’s growth and at the same time not providing for the women,” she added.
Yudof, who approved this new process, said the process is good.
“We just can’t have seven or eight individualized decisions during the course of the year, and then the next fall rolls around, and all of a sudden we realize that we’re behind the eight ball, that we are not where we need to be in terms of gender equity,” Yudof said.
Yudof said the University will enforce Title IX just as it does any other anti-discrimination statute.
“I’m not going to sit back and say, ‘I like this federal law but not that one.’ We are going to enforce it around here,” Yudof said.
He said he is an advocate for women’s athletics.
“When I was growing up, I was struck by the lack of opportunities for women athletes in our high schools and our colleges, and I thought, ‘Someday when I am in a position to make a difference, I am going to make a difference.'”

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.