Yale is under federal investigation for possible violations of Title IX, but in the gender equality statute’s traditional sports context, the University seems to be on solid footing, despite different levels of funding between male and female teams.

According to reports to the U.S. Department of Education compiled by Yale, the University’s men’s head coaches and assistant coaches both receive higher average salaries than their counterparts on women’s teams. Men’s teams also collectively spend more money on recruiting and have higher overall operating expenses than women’s teams, according to the reports. Although those and other numbers reveal that Yale spends more on men’s sports than on women’s, the difference is in keeping with national figures, and Title IX experts said that Yale is likely following federal statutes.

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Nonetheless, those disparities at Yale are considerable and consistent — men’s head coaches at the University have earned an average of $18,360 more than women’s coaches over the seven years for which data is available. The difference at Yale is significant, but hardly unique. Every Ivy League school pays its men’s coaches more than its women’s. The average difference in head coaches’ pay for the 125 schools in the NCAA Division I-AA — which includes the Ivy League — was $27,771 over the same seven years for which Yale data exists.

Those differences in salary, as well as a similar divide in recruiting expenses, have remained relatively constant over the past seven years both nationally and at Yale. Still, Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said they do not necessarily mean that Yale is violating Title IX.

“There is no requirement that you have to spend the same dollar amount on men and women’s sports, but different funding raises a red flag,” Chaudhry said. “Looking at that number, you have to ask whether the varied funding reflects unequal treatment or something else. For example, if the recruiting budgets are different, does that show that the men’s teams are traveling by air and the women’s by bus?”

Indeed, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal law that mandates gender equality in college sports, does not require that each team receive exactly the same funding. Instead, it requires that the men’s and women’s programs receive the same level of access to services, facilities and equipment, according to the NCAA’s Title IX Resource Center.

Valarie Stanley, the director of Yale’s Office for Equal Opportunity Programs and Yale’s Title IX coordinator, did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment Tuesday and Wednesday.

Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said in an interview Tuesday that his office is committed to ensuring equality of experience for male and female athletes. Team-by-team operating expenses support his claim.

Operating expenses are the costs necessary for each Yale team to play, including facility upkeep, equipment and travel. They do not include coaching salaries. In most sports that both men and women play, operating expenses are nearly identical. The men’s and women’s cross country, track and field, soccer, fencing and swimming and diving teams each had per-participant expenses within $10 of each other in 2009. Squash, tennis, and baseball and softball were each within $200.

When there were large differences among teams, Beckett said that the cause was likely related to facilities. Expenses for hockey were $8,112 per male student athlete in 2009, but only $5,420 per female. Yet, the two teams share a weight room and a rink, play almost identical schedules, and stay in the same hotels. The difference, Beckett said, was the cost for Yale to hold a home game for each team. Men’s hockey games routinely draw ten times more fans than women’s games, and thus require far more security and staff on hand.

“We can’t tell people where to spend their money, but we can decide where to spend our own,” he said.

The difference caused by attendance is especially apparent in the annual expenses of the football team, which draws tens of thousands of fans to some games and plays in the vast Yale Bowl. The team’s $2.51 million price tag is more than three times that of men’s basketball, the next most costly sport. Without football, Yale’s women’s teams would spend more than its men.

Beckett said that the football team might also account for part of the gendered disparity in coaching wages.

“If you take football out, I don’t know if [the difference] is true,” he said.

Yale does not release the salaries of individual coaches. Were the salary of football head coach Tom Williams the sole reason for the gap between average wages for men’s and women’s head coaches, he would have to make $356,000 per year. That salary is more than three times the men’s coaching average of $102,826.

Although football is not exempt from Title IX, the squad is so large — its 110 players are more than men’s lacrosse, ice hockey, and baseball combined — that courts have found that it is acceptable to pay football coaches more than others, said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a law professor and senior director of Advocacy at the Women in Sports Foundation.

But, for equivalent sports with similar schedules and similar numbers of student-athletes, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 forbids paying vastly different salaries to men’s and women’s coaches.

“You can’t pay a men’s coach more than a women’s coach and say it’s because of the market, and that there are different salaries for coaching men and women,” said Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer.

Due in part to the size of the football team, more men compete in varsity athletics at Yale than do women. There were roster spots for 501 men, or 19 percent of the undergraduate male population, on Yale teams in the 2009 fiscal year. On women’s teams, there were 426 spots, or space for 16 percent of undergraduate females. Beckett, the athletic director, said that his office strove to keep those numbers as close together as possible, but added that he can never be sure how many men and women Yale will admit each year. Making the two numbers equal, he said, is like “hitting a moving target.”

Yale has missed that target in all seven years for which the Department of Education provides data, and there have been more male athletes each year. Part of the difficulty in keeping participation equal is that it is impossible to determine how many students will decide to walk on to teams. Despite that uncertainty, participation numbers have inched closer together since 2003, when there were roster spots for 22 percent of male undergraduates and 16.7 percent of female undergraduates.

Participation numbers across the Ivy League have been similar to those at Yale for all seven years in which numbers are available. In that time, no school except Brown has ever had a year in which more women participated in varsity sports than men. None of the eight schools has had a year in which the percentage of female undergraduates involved in sports was greater than that of men.

Every one of Yale’s Ivy rivals has also consistently paid its men’s coaches a higher average salary than its women’s coaches, and spent more recruiting men than women.

Yale paid men’s assistant coaches an average of $38,042 in 2009, and women’s assistants an average of $27,665. It spent $489,471 recruiting male student-athletes in 2009, and $247,688 recruiting females.

Recruiting expenses pay for coaches’ trips across the country, as well as athletes’ official visits. Beckett said that his office has never refused funding for a coach’s recruiting trip.

“We recruit nationally, and we let coaches go wherever they have to to find the best and brightest,” he said.

Although the large difference between recruiting expenses for men and women seem to contradict that professed commitment to letting coaches go where they please, Yale is in fact far from the most unbalanced recruiting school in the Ivy League. The $242,000 difference in men’s and women’s budgets at Yale in 2009 was close to the Ancient Eight average and just under half the $467,000 disparity at Columbia.

But Beckett, Yale’s athletics director, said that numbers were not his department’s primary focus.

“What we’re concerned about is that the experience of every student-athlete is comparable,” he said. “We want to treat every student-athlete at Yale the same, and in a first-class manner.”

Yale’s total athletics expenses in 2009 was $35.84 million.