Title IX interpretation is shrouded in gray

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.”

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2 Responses to Title IX interpretation is shrouded in gray

  1. Jerry Stych says:

    Another unfortunate situation where a school hires a worthless patsy of an athletic director to be the puppet front man for an out of control liberal whacko administration. Anyone who thinks different needs to ask why would an upward trending athletic department, on the verge of taking the next step that they can, hires a girls high school sports administrator, who has zero experience in big time athletic administration to lead them to the promised land? Give me a break! What these brain damaged individuals fail to realize is that NO SCHOOL HAS EVER BEEN PROSECUTED UNDER THE FEDERAL LAW. The imbolsolic Title IX interpretations have warped the laws original intent.

  2. matt says:

    title IX is a joke anyhow! 57% female population, but men make up 61% of the student atheletes. how can anyone say this would be a title IX violation? that statement tells me not enough women are going out for sports and my daughters would stand a good chance of getting a scholarship there. How i would interpret title IX would be like this: if you offer 50 full-ride and 30 partial-ride schoalrships to men, you offer the same number for women. simple? i thought so. Is Title IX really accomplishing what is best for college sports? i know Iowa’s old femal AD was a big feminazi in this area – but let’s also be realistic. go to a women’s basketball game (and Tenessee and Rutgers are bad examples because they fall outside of the bell curve). take a look around. how packed are the stands? now factor out the boyfriends/girlfriends/casual buddies of the players, coaches, managers, etc. Factor out the kids doing a work study job to help pay off their debt. factor out the cheerleaders (if applicable). factor out the janitors and security people who are being paid to be there to clean and maintain the peace. factor out the refs (also paid to be there). factor out the media who are assigned to go to cover the game and spend the whole night grumbling how they wish they could stay athome and play their Wii. Is anyone left? i didn’t think so. it’s not that these ladies are not atheletes, because i am sure i would lose a game of ‘h.o.r.s.e.’ to probably all of them. but women’s athletics do not make any money, and they have no following, and outside of the very-heavily subidized WNBA – there are no professional female sports leagues. so going through the motions is kind of a farce. no one cares. sad – but that is the reailty of the world – sorry.

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