Title IX interpretation is shrouded in gray

May 9, 2009

Members of the UNI baseball team watch the action on the field during the Corridor Classic on April 28, 2009 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. UNI won 9-3.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Members of the UNI baseball team watch the action on the field during the Corridor Classic on April 28, 2009 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. UNI won 9-3. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Interpreting Title IX is more gray than black and white for many college athletics departments.

Such is the case at Northern Iowa, where 57 percent of UNI’s students are female, but more than 61 percent of UNI’s student-athletes are male. That’s usually a red flag for advocates of Title IX, a federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in schools — and athletics departments — that receive federal funding.

Title IX was designed to offer male and female student-athletes equal treatment and opportunities. According to the National Women’s Law Center, equal opportunities are defined as “the percentages of male and female athletes are about the same as the percentages of male and female students at the school; that the school has a history and a continuing practice of expanding athletic opportunities for female students …” and “the school is fully meeting female athletes’ interests and abilities.”

Like most universities, UNI offers an interest survey to students to ensure it meets Title IX obligations. In 2005, UNI offered the survey to female students but only about 17 percent returned it. That puts the school in compliance but on shaky ground, UNI Athletics Director Troy Dannen said.

“Typically the way Northern Iowa has measured compliance is through a survey, and if you’re meeting the interests of the students, then you’re in compliance,” Dannen said. “Really, you’re not. It doesn’t make you any more in compliance; it just means there’s nobody on campus that really wants anything else from an opportunity standpoint.

“The true intent of Title IX was the proportionality, about plus or minus 5 percent.”

Dannen planned to alter the school’s Title IX makeup when he arrived on campus about a year ago. Some of those changes include managing roster sizes. The men’s track and field team boasted more than 100 members during the 2008 fiscal year. Although the track program offered only the NCAA maximum in scholarships, the program’s participants fit into the Title IX equation.

“Our men’s track and field numbers have doubled in the last three years,” Dannen said. “When you’re out of equity compliance, a male sport can’t be doubling its numbers. We have to manage those squad sizes.”

UNI currently offers 18 sports, which includes indoor/outdoor track and cross country, although those sports fall under the track umbrella. Citing a $600,000 reduction in university aid next year, UNI will drop baseball after this spring, which will help the school’s gender-equity numbers.

“(Title IX) didn’t influence the decision on baseball other than because we’re so far out of whack proportionally,” Dannen said. “When the funding was going to be there, women’s rugby has a place on campus. It’s a strong program, and what I said when I was introduced, the intent was to grow the women’s participation and given where we were headed financially before this big lop, we were headed on a path to be able to do that.”

Excluding a likely reduction in men’s track numbers next year, more than 56 percent of UNI’s athletics scholarships will go to men.

“We’re going to get those numbers back under control,” Dannen said. “The proportionality looks not at scholarship dollars, although that is a component. It really looks at opportunity to participate.”


UNI athletics has used reserves to balance past budgets

May 6, 2009

 

UNI Offensive Coordinator Rick Nelson celebrates after the team's victory over Maine at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Nov. 29, 2008. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

UNI Offensive Coordinator Rick Nelson celebrates after the team's victory over Maine at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Nov. 29, 2008. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

 

CEDAR FALLS — A $600,000 drop in university funding to the Northern Iowa athletics department led to elimination of the school’s 103-year-old baseball program. But reducing one sport doesn’t absolve UNI athletics from future financial problems, either.

The athletics department has used its financial reserves to cover past shortfalls. According to financial records sent to the NCAA and obtained by The Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act, UNI athletics showed a $251,000 surplus during the 2008 fiscal year, the most recent year with complete data. But it also listed more than $222,000 in revenue taken from endowment and investment income. A private audit of UNI’s athletics department listed $34,545 in expenses over revenue that fiscal year.

“The athletic department has used its reserves to balance its budget, and there are no reserves to be able to do that any longer,” UNI Athletics Director Troy Dannen said. “We have to make sure our budget is balanced just based on what we do.”

During the 2008 fiscal year, UNI’s athletics department listed revenues of nearly $16.6 million, with expenses totaling $16.347 million in the NCAA report. However, institutional support and student fees totaled nearly $6.6 million, or almost 40 percent of its revenue.

“Most schools of our ilk, I-AA schools, still operate at 50 to 60 percent of their athletic department’s operating budget is coming from institutional support,” Dannen said. “That’s student fees plus general fund support.”

During the 2008 fiscal year, football provided the most revenue — and carried the largest financial burden. Football brought in nearly $2.7 million in revenue, but spent more than $3.2 million. Football earned nearly $885,000 in ticket sales and $330,000 in guarantees from a road trip to Iowa State that season. But it also received nearly $400,000 in student fees and more than $727,000 in institutional support.

Men’s basketball was the only moneymaking sport that year, with nearly $325,000 more in revenue than expenses. But it received more than $510,000 in student fees and institutional support.

Dannen is focused with maximizing revenue in football and men’s basketball and said each sport has potential to do so. Dannen cited four primary revenue streams in athletics: corporate gifts, gameday sales, donations and university/state support. Even with the $600,000 hit in university/state support, he said the said the department’s financial outlook is good.

“Football revenue was up $300,000 this year and the crowds were smaller,” Dannen said. “It’s just that elasticity point of where the price is and the crowd. There’s a lot of upside from the football standpoint.

“Basketball, we’re averaging 66 percent of capacity, and we have a good program right now so we have opportunity there. Given the strength of the program — that’s the blessing in all of this — that while we’re losing on one end of things (direct university support), the department’s uniquely in position to have strong revenue-generating football and basketball (programs).”

Streamlining costs also will help UNI’s financial profile. UNI receives $400,000 to play at Iowa this fall and will pay for only a bus trip. The school received a similar guarantee last year to play at Brigham Young, but spent much of that revenue in travel costs.

As for the other sports, such as wrestling, women’s basketball and volleyball, Dannen said there is revenue potential.

“Even if we look at our wrestling revenue numbers, even if you double those, it’s not going to off-set, significantly off-set the expenses,” Dannen said. “I’m looking at revenue potential in football and men’s basketball. There’s greater revenue potential in women’s basketball and volleyball right now. “


Dannen: Funding shortfall root cause in dropping baseball

May 5, 2009
Troy Dannen, left, waits to speak at a press conference where he is officially announced as the new athletic director at Northern Iowa, June 3, 2008 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo)

Troy Dannen, left, waits to speak at a press conference where he is officially announced as the new athletic director at Northern Iowa, June 3, 2008 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo)

CEDAR FALLS — When Troy Dannen interviewed for the Northern Iowa athletics director position one year ago, he advocated addition — not subtraction — as the goal in bringing UNI under Title IX compliance.

Now, less than one year after accepting the job, Dannen was slapped with a $600,000 cut in state/university funding for the next fiscal year. His plans are history, as is the school’s 103-year-old baseball program.

“I had a plan to address the gender equity without eliminating a sport,” Dannen said. “I did not anticipate the fact that there would be this major cutting in state funding this year. It’s what I signed on for, but it’s not what you anticipate.”

UNI athletics received $5.5 million in direct institutional support this year. Next year, that number falls to $4.9 million in direct support, and Dannen expects that funding to decrease annually. UNI had depleted its reserves in previous years to balance the books, and Dannen said he was forced to cut a sport.

UNI could not drop a women’s sport because of gender equity issues. Females comprise 57 percent of UNI’s students but only 39 percent of its athletes. Of UNI’s six male sports, three — football, basketball and golf — were not considered. Football and basketball earn more than $5.1 million in revenue. Golf’s expenses barely total $75,000. It came down to baseball, wrestling and track.

“We have the best indoor track facility in the Midwest and one of the best in the country in track and field,” Dannen said. “Wrestling, we also own the facility. Baseball, when you don’t own the facility — that’s one thing if you start laying down the sports against one another — we don’t control our own facility. We’re paying rent.”

 

University of Northern Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller speaks at a press conference where the university announced officially the end of the baseball program after this season, on Feb. 23, 2009 at the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen noted an expected athletic department budget gap of up to $600,000 next year, thanks to a 9 percent drop in state funding. (AP Photo)

University of Northern Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller speaks at a press conference where the university announced officially the end of the baseball program after this season, on Feb. 23, 2009 at the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen noted an expected athletic department budget gap of up to $600,000 next year, thanks to a 9 percent drop in state funding. (AP Photo)

Climate, Dannen said, also was a factor. UNI’s baseball team played its first 23 games this season away from home. Its first home date was March 31. Still, the decision to eliminate baseball was difficult, he said.

Dannen anticipated some drop in funding based on state economics. Within hours of receiving the final figure, Dannen said he called UNI baseball coach Rick Heller and told him UNI would drop baseball.

I think it was on the Wednesday (before a road trip to Little Rock, Ark. that began Friday, Feb. 20), I called Rick as I walked out of the office and we met that morning,” Dannen said. “That was when I knew. It’s just that week before they went on the road. But I didn’t know when to share it with the kids because they were taking off the next day. And then I called Rick when he was gone and said I want to meet with the team on Monday.”

Heller asked Dannen if there was a way to save the sport. Dannen agreed, because “this is an economic issue.”

“If you don’t offer the opportunity to fix the economics, then there’s more to it than just an economic decision,” Dannen said. “If you do offer the opportunity to fix the economics and granted it was a small window and probably it was going to be very high hill to climb to fix the economics. You never know, something could be out there. But if that fails, then there’s a whole other set of problems. It’s a bad situation either way.”

According to figures supplied to the NCAA and obtained by The Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act, UNI’s baseball program spent nearly $650,000 in fiscal year 2008. UNI baseball generated nearly $380,000 in revenues but about $225,000 came directly from state/university support or student fees.

UNI’s baseball expenses totaled about $400,000 this year, Dannen said. Heller proposed cutting his budget to $350,000 next year.

“They offered to make some cuts to the program but essentially at what point do you cut it and it’s still a Division I program?” Dannen asked. “Unless we could have filled the entire void, there was going to be no change …”

Dannen gave Heller until April 5 to raise $1.2 million to fund the program for the next three years. Program supporters raised $250,000 to fund the program on an annual basis, a total Dannen called “remarkable.”

“It just wasn’t enough to offset the expense,” Dannen said.

Inevitably, it fell short. In a letter addressed to the state Board of Regents, the Committee to Save UNI Baseball called the time frame and total figure “an unreasonable mountain to climb.”

“We couldn’t have done any more,” Heller said in the regents’ letter. “We couldn’t have done any more. I think it was apparent to everyone … that this decision came from the top and isn’t about money. To think we are losing one of only two Division I baseball programs in Iowa for political reasons is criminal. I couldn’t be more disappointed.”

Dannen acknowledges the tight window and set April 5 as a drop-dead date to give the players a shot at seizing scholarships at other schools.

“While I don’t know if that was the right decision, I don’t know if the right decision was to wait until the end of the season,” Dannen said. “In my mind, the more opportunity, the more notice … they basically had the notice as soon as I had the cut number from the institution. I thought that was the best way to go with it.”


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