Women’s athletics still competing for equal play in University sports

One major wing — nearly 750 square feet — of the University’s new state fair building depicts student-athletes slam dunking, hitting homers and driving down the fairway. But all these full-color, glossy photos showcase men: male athletes, male coaches and male athletic directors.
Female student-athletes were depicted on a single seven-foot divider near the center of the building.
University spokesman Mike Tracy said the space discrepancy occurred because a women’s athletics representative began working with the state fair team too late. However, fairgoers worried that the display indicated the University values its men’s athletics department far more than its women’s teams.
Even though Title IX prohibited discrimination in all educational programs more than 25 years ago, most colleges — including the University — have not yet fully complied with the law.
At the University, violations occur not only in the three major components of Title IX — opportunities for participation, scholarships and other benefits — but also in underlying attitudes.
Athletic opportunities
To be compliant with Title IX, colleges first must provide athletic participation opportunities proportional to overall undergraduate enrollment.
That is, if 50 percent of students are female, 50 percent of athletic opportunities should be for women. Exceptions to this component are granted if a school shows continuous program expansion responsive to developing interests of women.
In the University’s case, athletic opportunities were available for 256 women during the 1997-98 school year, according to the University’s 1999 NCAA Certification Self-Study released this summer. In 1997-98, 388 opportunities were available for men.
During 1997-98, 51 percent of undergraduates were women, said Tom Gilson, Institutional Reporting and Research senior analyst. So 51 percent, or 329 athletic opportunities, should have been made available to women. Instead, only 39 percent were.
University officials have acknowledged this gap in their 1998-2003 Gender Equity Plan.
“Despite major efforts during the past five years, the University recognizes that continuing efforts are needed to ensure that quality athletic opportunities exist for male and female student-athletes,” the plan states.
Additions of women’s soccer and ice hockey teams along with the planned addition of women’s rowing in fall 2000 will tighten the gap, said Chris Voelz, women’s athletics director.
Athletic scholarships
In 1997-98, only 38 cents of women’s athletic scholarships were issued for every dollar issued to male athletes, according to data from the University’s self-study.
To comply with Title IX, the University should award athletic financial aid proportional to the ratio of male and female athletes. Since 39 percent of athletes at the University are female, 39 percent of the aid should go to females.
In the last three years, only 35 percent of athletes receiving athletic scholarships were women.
Even accounting for fewer numbers of female student-athletes, the average University female student-athlete still receives $263 less than her male counterpart a year.
Currently, the women’s athletics department awards the maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA.
The NCAA limits athletic scholarships to ensure schools remain competitive; limits are placed on individual men’s and women’s sports.
Title IX critics point out that some women’s teams are allowed more scholarships than men’s teams in the same sport.
But Voelz said this evolved from the 1981 NCAA takeover of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Because the NCAA offered a more limited number of sports than the AIAW, officials negotiated to minimize harm to women’s athletics departments and teams.
“What the women said is, ‘Now, wait a minute. If you’re going to take away these sports from us, you’re going to have to make it up to us by giving us scholarships in other sports,'” Voelz said. “It was part of the negotiation so that women wouldn’t lose too many opportunities overall.”
Other athletic benefits
In addition to the two more quantitative criteria, a third category of Title IX requires other, more qualitative student-athlete benefits to be equivalent. Eleven factors are required to be similar under this provision, including equipment, scheduling, travel, tutoring, coach compensation, facilities, publicity, support and recruitment.
Game and practice scheduling, academic tutoring, competition spaces and training facilities for women are all exceptional at the University and are at or near Title IX compliance, Voelz said.
The University is progressing in making supplies, travel and per diem allowances, and support services more equitable, but still has work to do, Voelz said.
Equalizing medical, housing and dining facilities and coaching compensation are areas in which the University has much more work to do, she added.
In order to pay women’s coaches equitably, women’s athletics officials first need to know what men’s coaches are paid, something the University does not always provide.
Men’s head coaches earned an average salary of $71,761 in 1997-98. Overall, the men’s athletics department spent nearly $1.25 million on coach salaries that year.
Women’s head coaches earned an average $55,142 in 1997-98. Overall, the women’s athletics department spent $973,545 in that year, less than 44 percent of the men’s athletics department.
Likewise, only 30 percent of University recruitment dollars were spent to recruit female student-athletes in 1997-98. Slightly more than $200,000 went to women’s athletics while more than $460,000 went to men’s athletics.
This figure has been improving continually, Voelz said.
In 1995-96, 21 percent of University recruitment money went to recruiting women. In that year, less than $100,000 was spent to recruit women while more than $367,790 was spent to recruit men.
As with other Title IX measures, recruitment money is supposed to be divided in proportion to the male-to-female student-athlete ratio. Under this criteria, women’s athletics should receive at least $65,000 more than they did.
Getting publicity for women’s sports is an area the University also needs to improve on, Voelz said.
Because men’s athletics draw advertising, men’s games are often broadcast on radio and television. But women’s teams have not yet been able to draw the same attention, so their games are not broadcast as frequently.
Voelz said the University should subsidize coverage of women’s games so women’s teams can begin to garner the public enthusiasm men’s teams already do. Without broadcasting games, this will not happen, she said.
The state fair athletics display is another example of the differing attitudes toward men’s and women’s sports.
But the state fair inequity is more than just a visual problem.
One-third of men’s and women’s athletics tickets for the entire year are sold at the fair, Tracy said.
Unchanging attitudes
Since Title IX became law, critics have said it will ruin high-revenue men’s college sports, especially football, by giving valuable and limited men’s athletics resources to women’s teams.
Looking down on women’s athletics as an over-eager younger sister is an attitude still far too prevalent, Voelz said.
“It’s very difficult for any human to share when they perceive something is being taken away from them,” Voelz said. “I was the second-born, and I bet it was difficult when my dad and mom said, ‘Jeffrey, you’ve got to share with Chris.’ And he’d say, ‘No! Why?’ Those kind of infantile and adolescent responses are sometimes more prevalent than we would like.”
But instead of women gaining and men losing, Voelz said both men and women have gained.
Big plans
In an attempt to bring its own members — the nation’s largest universities — into compliance by 2002, the Big Ten conference has initiated a Title IX plan.
But the cooperation of its 11 members will be necessary.
In 1992 the Big Ten initiated a plan for 40 women to complete for every 60 men in its member colleges by 1997. Only four schools — Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin — met that goal. The Big Ten extended its plan to total compliance by 2002.
“You have to have enforcement,” Voelz said. “I still remember when the 55 mph law was first passed. I remember once it was posted 55, there were police cars, and we were looking around thinking, ‘I’d better drive 55 or else I’m going to serve the consequences.’ What happened with Title IX is that for many decades people did not serve the consequences.”
As of 1998, none of the 11 teams in the Big Ten conference had neared 50-50 participation.
The University, still near the bottom of the conference in several Title IX criteria, has a long way to improve before 2002.
Planned improvements — including new stadiums for women’s sports — might be further hampered by scandals which have rocked the men’s athletics department this year.
Scandalous consequences
This University faces additional problems stemming from investigations into academic fraud and sexual misconduct in its men’s athletics program.
Although neither women’s teams nor women’s athletics officials have been implicated in these scandals, Voelz said female student-athletes have borne part of the stigma of the scandal.
Voelz and other officials in the Office of Student Development and Athletics are also unsure how the men’s athletics department’s repayment of a University loan for Clem Haskins’ $1.5 million buyout would affect the women’s athletics department.
Because the men’s athletics departmental budget was already set when the decision to buy out Haskins’ contract was made, the University loaned the department money to be paid back over the next several years, said Mary Amundson, Office of Student Development and Athletics budget director.
Contrary to University President Mark Yudof’s jokes that the University would only loan money to the department at a high interest rate, Amundson said the loan was made at the University’s standard rate.
At that conference, Yudof also said the University’s gender equity plan would not be in jeopardy because of the buyout.
Even if outside organizations donate money to the men’s athletics department to fund loan repayments, the men’s athletics department will spend much more than its 1999-2000 budget, further increasing the budget gap between men’s and women’s athletics departments.
“It truly is a moving target,” Voelz said. “If they spent a lot more, they’d still be inequitable even though we’d made progress.”
Title IX isn’t about making men’s and women’s athletics departments exactly equal, Voelz said.
“We just want to make certain that a little girl does not have a third of a chance of getting a scholarship, a fifth of the ability to be recruited and maybe a tenth of the ability to have exposure in the media,” Voelz said.

Tammy J. Oseid welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3218.