Athletic programs around the continental United States are currently suffering from the wrath of a great and uncontrollable disease. The effects of this debilitating affliction have been felt by nearly every athlete in some way, shape or form and it continues to grow without any end in sight. Its name is Title IX, and it is destroying athletic departments and athletes alike across the nation.
Title IX was born on a cold day in 1972 as a clause in the Federal Education Amendments. Once signed into law it stated “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The verbatim text of this clause seems like a great addition to the American educational system, but like Marx’ communism it looked a great deal better on paper then it would in action.
Here is the basic problem which Title IX poses: Athletic programs cannot receive enough extra funding to support the new women’s athletic teams along with the existing teams within the program. Thus to compensate for the added burdens caused by Title IX, athletic departments have been cutting previous existing men’s programs at an alarming rate. There is another issue, however, which Title IX creates. Even though it does take into account cost differences for equipment and management, it does not take into account the need for increasing team sizes for better competition. For instance, Yale’s football team requires a squad of 110 male athletes, who are needed to stay competitive within the Ivy League. This is approximately equal to the rosters of most D-1A schools, and because of these large numbers the football team takes up slots that could be used for other male athletes.
There seem to be three solutions to solving this problem. The easiest solution would be to drop the football program, but at an institution such as Yale that practically invented the sport and has The Game, this does not seem like a very viable selection. The second possibility would be to cut the football roster from 110 to perhaps around 70 or 80 players. This would free up funding for male sports which have been cut for Title IX compliance and decrease the cost of the football program. At the same time it would cause the team to become less competitive than schools which have more players to train with, but it is a possible path that could be travelled. The third option would be to revise Title IX to take into consideration the number of players needed to stay competitive and allow increased funding to sports, that through their nature, need more athletes to do so. This would mean that men’s sports such as football, which is unlike any female sport in nature or in numbers, would be eligible for greater funding because it has such different demands then the majority of other sports.
I personally feel that a revision to Title IX would be the best way to maintain a competitive nature in the sport of football while still attempting to keep athletics equal for all. In reality, football is two teams — an offense and a defense — and because of the large numbers needed to maintain both units, the team as a whole is huge. The nature of the sport itself requires a minimum of 44 players for the offensive and defensive units, and with the additions of kickers and special-teams players, a squad can barely operate with 60 members. Add to this total 30 freshman, the majority of which will not make any main contributions to the team in their first year because of the significant difference in the level of play. You now have 90 members, which I would say is the exact size of Yale’s team right now, pending the incoming freshmen players next fall. It is obvious that the size of a football team is much larger than any other squad, but to be competitive in the sport today demands that there be a large number of players, both because of the susceptibility to injury and because of the need to practice against solid athletes who will prepare the unit as a whole for the game at the end of the week.
Title IX was based on a great idea, and it has greatly helped increase the number of female athletes. Knowing how much athletics has contributed to my life I certainly would not want to prevent any person from receiving such benefits. It is still important to remember though that as much as individuals may want to be equal, they are still fundamentally different. Men and women are different physically and mentally and, just as this difference is reflected through the differences in their sports, it should likewise be reflected in legislation affecting equality. If anything, Title IX penalizes being different and unique in athletics. As much as I do not see the point in not allowing checking in women’s hockey, I am sure that a majority of female athletes feel that it is downright stupid to collide into each other at full speed for an entire game.
Until there is some recognition of the important differences between men’s and women’s sports and the needs that these differences require, Title IX will prevent intercollegiate athletics from ever being truly equal.
Michael Dunleavy is a sophomore in Morse. He is an offensive tackle on the football team.