Posts Tagged ‘Title IX’
That’s not me saying cheerleading isn’t a sport, even if I did type that headline my ownself.
That’s a Connecticut judge, ruling whether Quinnipiac University could count competitive cheerleading as a sport in order to meet requirements under Title IX, the federal law that prevents gender discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding. U.S. District Judge Steven Underhill, sitting in Bridgeport, ruled in favor of the school’s former women’s volleyball team, which sued after the school announced it would chop (as well as men’s golf and men’s outdoor track) in favor of competitive cheerleading for 2009-10, a lawsuit that Underhill later expanded to a class-action case.
Actually, the lawsuit looked at all sorts of questions about roster-size manipulation Quinnipiac, in the judge’s mind, made to comply with Title IX, but the headlines are uniformly about how cheerleading is not a sport. And why not, after Underhill made this statement, reported in the Hartford Courant:
“Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX; today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”
The immediate result of this case is that the Fighting Pollsters have 60 days from the July 21 ruling date to get in compliance with Title IX, and specifically must bring back the women’s volleyball team.
However, while Underhill unequivocally declared that cheerleading is not a sport, no matter how much paralysis it has caused, like the current U.S. Supreme Court he made his ruling narrow enough so that everything isn’t 100 percent settled.
After all, Underhill, by saying “sometime in the future” it could qualify as a sport, ruled that cheerleading isn’t a sport not because it’s doesn’t have a ball or stick. It’s because it’s not organized enough.
So I’m thinking the takeaway for those in the cheerleading community — or the public school community — that want sis-boom-bahing declared as a sport would be: Get organized. Start leagues. Have conference championships. Get to the point where people are playing football on the sidelines to fire up the crowd into rooting harder for the cheerleaders.
“Is cheerleading a sport?” isn’t some sort of semantic question, like “is bowling a sport,” “is auto racing a sport,” or “is challenge pissing a sport.” (The link is NSFW language, but it’s not what you think. Or hope, if you’re R. Kelly.)
“Is cheerleading a sport” is a question that will be answered in a courtroom, and it could have an effect on how boys and girls are counted when it comes to Title IX, the federal law guaranteeing equal access by gender for any student in any school that receives federal money.
A trial started Mon., June 21 against Quinnipiac University (the Fighting Pollsters!) of Hamden, Conn., which is being sued by six women’s volleyball players over the school’s dropping their program. The players contend the elimination, as part of budget cuts, violated Title IX federal guidelines. A judge has already sort-of agreed, granting a temporary injunction to keep women’s vollyeball alive at Quinnipiac and granted the lawsuit class-action status.
That’s all well and good. But more interesting is one way Quinnipiac sought to prove that its female athletic participation is in step with its 62-38 female-male ratio: by elevating competitive cheer, with its 40 female members, to the rank of “sport.” From the New Haven (Conn.) Register:
The trial could ultimately be a referendum on competitive cheer, the gymnastic-like sport that is neither recognized as a varsity sport by the NCAA nor listed as an emerging sport. Quinnipiac initially intended to replace the 11-member volleyball program with a much larger competitive cheer squad.
According to published reports, cost estimates for a roster of 40 in competitive cheer is approximately $50,000. The volleyball budget was over $70,000 for 11 players last year.
Competitive cheer has many of the qualities of gymnastics, yet to some, it’s just an extension of “sideline cheer,” which is commonly seen at collegiate sporting events.
Others see competitive cheer as a low-cost loophole used to inflate the proportionality of female athletes at a school.
The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which sets the guidelines for Title IX student participation does not have a specific ruling to allow or disallow competitive cheer, but in 2008 issued a “Dear Colleague letter” which provided clarifying information to help institutions determine which intercollegiate or interscholastic athletic activities can be counted for the purpose of Title IX compliance. The letter indicates that when OCR conducts an investigation to determine whether an institution provides equal athletic opportunities as required by Title IX regulations, OCR evaluates the opportunities provided by the institution on a case by case basis.
Quinnipiac is currently in an alliance called the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association which includes the universities of Maryland, Oregon, Baylor, Ohio State (club team), Fairmont State of West Virginia, Azusa Pacific of California and Fort Valley State of Georgia.
If this were a movie, there would be a climatic scene in which the competitive cheer team performs in court, and the judge, so moved, declares: “You ARE a sport after all!” And everybody hugs.
In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared cheerleading was a sport — and a contact sport at that, in that competitors were in physical contact with each other. (And given the high injury rates for competitive cheer, you’d be safer on the football field instead.) However, that ruling wasn’t for Title IX purposes. It was to disallow a cheerleader’s right to sue the partner who failed to catch her, as well as the school and its insurance company to pay for treating her injuries.
In some states, the high school athletic ruling body includes competitive cheer under its jurisdiction, although often it seems like it does so to pull the same kind of Title IX shenanigans in which Quinnipiac is accused of engaging. For example, in 2009 the Florida High School Athletic Association had plans to cut back every sport but football (which it declared was coed because three girls played) and competitive cheer. Those plans were beaten back by Title IX activists, among others. And Florida’s inclusion of competitive cheer also seemed similar to why catchers have to report with pitchers to spring training. Somebody’s gotta cheer for the football team, and somebody has to catch the ball.
As of this writing, the Quinnipiac trial is ongoing.
The Obama administration announcement that it is stepping up enforcement of Title IX, the law that requires equal gender opportunity at any educational institution receiving federal funding, and the possible expansion of the Big Ten Conference appear to be separate stories. But soon enough, they will become one.
That’s because colleges are going to have to reconcile two differing mandates: providing fair representation, opportunity and funding for female and male athletes, and plowing every dollar possible into football in for what for most schools will be a vain hope of creating an athletic cash cow. Not for nothing have the lords of football and their protectors fought numerous times, including soon after Title IX was passed in 1972, to exempt football from the law.
The Obama administration, trotting out Vice President Joseph Biden for the grand announcement, on April 20 said it would increase enforcement of Title IX (technically, since 2002, the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, named after the late Hawaii representative who created it), and that it would rescind a George W. Bush-era rule that gave schools more leeway with “model surveys” as a means of proving compliance.
Since 2005, schools could use email surveys of women to determine athletic interest, and could use a lack of response to indicate a lack of interest. Now, my wife is an Internet consultant for associations, and her line of work, a 10 percent response rate for a member survey is considered golden. So the possibility existed that women’s actual interest in sports would be skewed way downward, one of the many reasons the NCAA was against the Bush approach, and why so few schools implemented it.
Biden announced that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, will still allow the use of surveys, but that a nonresponse can’t be used to indicate lack of interest. (If you want to read the full scope of the tests used to ensure schools are in Title IX compliance, it’s here.)
Even those who aren’t the biggest Title IX fans will say the law has been a great success in expanding opportunities for women. On the college level, we’ve gone from a time when schools openly admitted to requiring women to have a higher grade-point average than men for admission to women representing around 55 percent of college graduates. There were 30,000 female college athletes in 1972; now, there are 150,000. (Just in case you’re wondering how girls’ youth sports became as cutthroat and mercenary as the boys’.)
However, the argument against Title IX is that men’s opportunities have remained static — and in many cases have been eliminated — as schools used quota systems to prove compliance, turning men in nonrevenue sports such as wrestling and gymnastics into would-be Allan Bakkes, arguing their opportunities were sacrificed unfairly on the mantel of supposed gender equality. Title IX, in its own language, declares that opportunities should not be a zero-sum game. However, even if Title IX hasn’t been the real reason a men’s sport has been eliminated, it would be logical to think it’s entered the conversation at some point.
Testimony about declining men’s opportunities is present throughout a 2003 Bush administration report on Title IX (titled, tellingly, “Open for All’) that helped bring about its changes in approach, and the 2008 Republican Party platform stated that Title IX “should not be distorted by Washington bureaucrats to micromanage collegiate athletics or force cancellation of men’s sports programs.”
The Title IX opponents don’t like when you bring up raw numbers, but I’m going to bring them up anyway. Despite all the progress made over the last 40 years, and despite all the cuts made to men’s sports, women are 55 percent of college students, but 43 percent of athletes. In high school, the gap is 49-41 for women — meaning boys are 51 percent of students and 59 percent of athletes.
And what is skewing these numbers? For the most part, football.
With 85 scholarships at the Football Bowl Series level (formerly Division I-A) and 63 scholarships at the Football Championship Series level (formerly Division I-AA), football by miles has the largest rosters and the largest representation of athletes. Throw in nonscholarships walk-ons — who count in Title IX computations — and the numbers grow higher. The American Football Coaches Association has fought against Title IX pretty much from its infancy, and four times Congress has considered bills to exempt football from Title IX. All have failed.
The argument for all the attention and money on football is that it supports the rest of the athletic department. However, that’s usually not true. Football does usually stay in the black, but not enough to underwrite losses elsewhere — that’s covered by student fees and general fund contributions. Plus, it’s getting harder for more schools to keep their football financial heads above water. The average salary of an FBS head football coach jumped 46% from 2006 to 2009, to $1.6 million. Even if most of it is paid by boosters and sponsors, not the athletic department, it’s still reflective of an arms race for coaches, facilities and whatever else can attract the nation’s best football players and turn a woebegone program into the next Boise State.
This is where the Big Ten’s possible expansion comes in. It’s all about football (and a little bit about spreading its cable property, the Big Ten Network). Adding to the 11 teams in the misnamed Big Ten means that the conference can have a conference championship game, more teams in the postseason bowls, and the geographical reach to negotiate a larger network television contract. (Commissioner Jim Delaney said April 21 that expansion would not happen for 12 to 18 months, at least — but it’s coming.)
The Big Ten’s move would spark another round of conference reorganizations, starting with the Big East. That once-powerful basketball conference, now at 16 members, could lose Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Notre Dame (a member in every sport but football) to the Big Ten, and perhaps have other powerful football members like West Virginia poached by other conferences as well, leaving it mostly with private schools with no football — and frozen out of the Bowl Championship Series elite.
What this is creating is a one tier of elite football programs and conferences, and everyone else, who are going to have to look at cutting football (if they have it) not only as a means to keep Title IX compliance in tight financial times, but mostly as a way to keep its athletic department solvent in tight financial times.
The College Sports Council, a passionate spokesorganization when it comes to what it sees as the (mostly) men-hurting excesses of Title IX, has already blamed Title IX for the elimination of football at Hofstra and Northeastern, and it says more FCS schools could have football in their sights. After all, at the FCS level, football really doesn’t make any money.
The Big Ten expansion highlights a growing gap between the football haves and have-nots, and schools left on the outside will have to decide if football is worth the money. Throw in the garnish of more aggressive enforcement of Title IX, and you could have the ingredients of football’s demise at some institutions.
I’m not saying Title IX would be the real reason for cutting football. I’m just saying, it would be logical to think it would enter the conversation at some point.
Constance McMillen, a lesbian girl who wanted to bring a date to the prom and panicked her school into canceling the whole damn thing — you have a straight, male doppelganger in Port Angeles, Wash.
OK, I’ll give you that the fight of Spencer May — or, technically, his parents — to play in a girls’ league because not enough players sign up for the boys’ league is not exactly the modern morality play of homosexuality in America, and the extreme reaction in some corners against it. The ACLU isn’t even involved. However, the reaction to their actions is very similar.
When the ACLU spoke up on McMillen’s desire to bring a female date, in opposition to Itawamba County Agricultural High’s policy of opposite-sex dates only, the school shut down the prom. When May’s parents threatened to sue the Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club for not allowing their son to play in a girls’ spring soccer league, the club suspended the league.
Here’s what happened, according to the soccer organization:
“The Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club has temporarily postponed its Spring league. The season has not been cancelled at this time, and the club hopes to resume practices and play soon. The club is currently addressing a very serious allegation of discrimination by the parents of a boy who is unable to play because of low enrollment among the older boys soccer division.
The club decided to postpone the season after the parents of the boy twice disrupted a girls team’s practices and gave the board good reason to believe that further disruptions of practices and games would occur if the club did not agree to the parents’ demands to allow the boy to play on a girls team.
In 2009, the club elected to discontinue co-ed play for most age groups. The club’s experience with co-ed play for children 8 years of age and older was that it did not provide boys and girls the best opportunity to develop their soccer skills and learn a love for the game. The club believes that was and is the right decision.
The boy’s parents were pressuring the club to make decisions quickly, and the reason for the postponement is to give the club the time it needs to address the issue responsibly.
The club does not discriminate against any child who wants to play soccer. The club opened its enrollment to boys and girls, and did not prohibit any age-qualified children from enrolling because of their gender. This is not about a boy being prohibited from playing soccer. It is about not enough older boys signing up to play soccer.”
We are not able to comment further at this time.
The statement was prompted by inquiries from the local newspaper, the Peninsula Daily News. Its gardening columnist is the father complaining and threatening a lawsuit if his son isn’t allowed to play, creating the growing concern of the league by sowing seeds of discontent. The newspaper quotes the soccer association as saying 24 girls and 13 boys signed up for the U14 (14 and under) league for the spring, the former enough to create three eight-player teams, and the latter not enough to form any number of teams. Port Angeles also has fall leagues that are more popular, and the newspaper figures it’s getting edged out by baseball.
However, the May family didn’t sit idly by while Spencer was without soccer. From the Peninsula Daily News:
Spencer May learned that there was a U14 girls team practicing at his own school, Stevens Middle School. He heard about it from one of the girls on the team, his father said.
Spencer May began practicing with the team.
“He was accepted by the girls on the team,” Andrew May said.
At the third practice, the board kicked Spencer off the girls team and offered to refund his registration, his father said.
“Spencer practiced twice, and early in the third practice when the team started running drills, the coach called [the league president], who told me they would refund our registration and Spencer could not practice with the girls,” Andrew May said.
Spencer May’s parents did not accept the refund and insisted that Spencer was a member of that team, the parents wrote in e-mails to the board. …
May’s parents threatened legal action, and demanded that Spencer and all 12 boys who had signed up get to play with the girls. The family cited an expansion of Title IX that took effect in Washington Jan. 1 as the legal basis for their complaint.
I have a prediction for the Mays family — Constance McMillen has a better shot, legally, at going to the Itawamba prom than you son has of playing soccer with the girls. It’s possible Port Angeles Soccer might let your son and others play just to not have to spend the money on a lawsuit, or if they realize that they need your money. But I predict the league would win in court.
The first reason is that the Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club isn’t even covered by the Washington law. That specifically states that the discrimination law applies to those leagues run by a city or publicly funded parks and recreation program. While the Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club phone number and web site are listed in the city’s parks guide, the club itself is not a public entity.
Courts have been fairly consistent about not making non-public athletic authorities responsible for gender equity, even if the private organization does have some public connections. For example, in a 2006 ruling denying a male gymnast the right to join his high school’s girls’ team — even though there was no boys team — a Wisconsin appeals court denied the request because the lawsuit was against the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which was not a public entity despite its membership being mostly public schools.
Every court hasn’t ruled along those lines. The reason boys play field hockey on girls’ teams in Massachusetts is because of a 1979 court ruling saying they could not be barred. But a Title IX/state law case against a nonpublic athletic entity is no sure thing.
The other problem for the Mays is that courts don’t necessarily, even in the case of public entities, claim discrimination if there is no equivalent male program when there is one for females. One reason is because girls, historically, have had the record of being discriminated against (hence, why Title IX exists), and that maintaining girls’ opportunities is paramount even if boys feel they have been victimized. Another is that courts often look at whether there are, overall, sufficient athletic opportunities for boys, even if they aren’t in the sports they want.
The attorney for the Port Angeles league, should it come to this, could argue fairly effectively that there is already a fall soccer league, so there is ample opportunity for boys to play the sport. Plus, the community has all sorts of sporting opportunities for boys and girls, so even if Spencer can’t play soccer in the spring, he has opportunities. But given the private nature of the soccer league, I doubt the argument well get that far.
It’s not Constance McMillen’s fault that her prom was canceled, and despite the May family being as wrong as McMillen is right, it’s not Spencer May’s fault that the Port Angeles soccer season is on hold. However, unless Port Angeles merely doesn’t want a fight from one vocal set of parents (and assuming no one else would object if the league knuckled under), I would expect to see Constance McMillen in her prom tuxedo sooner than I would Spencer May in his spring Port Angeles soccer kit.
First, an apology. When I posted stories Nos. 10-6 for the top 10 youth sports stories of the year, I wrote that the next day, I would post No. 5-1. The first post went up Dec. 28. No second post Dec. 29. Or Dec. 30. Or Dec. 31. Or Jan. 1. I should know better than to promise on a schedule.
I presumed that news on the youth sports beat would be slow (it wasn’t), and that somehow having four kids home on winter vacation would be less than hectic (it wasn’t). Also, I was a tad late getting back from my 1o-year-old daughter’s basketball game today. I was accosted by an angry mother, the same one who tried to rush me at the bench once before, who wanted to know, in my role as a coach, if I knew what the fuck I was doing.
Actually, it was a bit entertaining, her screaming and swearing at me on the walk in front of our gym, as other parents and children stopped in their tracks to watch the entertainment (I, not she, got this view because I was facing the parking lot). Early on, the mom’s boyfriend implored her to get into the car (they had someplace they had to be), but then he turned on another guy when he started yelling at the mom to shut up. Fortunately, no riot ensued, although I wasn’t sure for a minute.
Without getting into all the details about her dispute — mainly, it was about how I was treating her son, the team’s best player and admittedly its biggest hothead — I will say that by the time the director of the basketball program rushed out in 5-degree weather to check out what was going on (he was called out by a dad from my team, who thankfully threw in that I was a nice guy), the conversation had turned civil. The mom just wanted to get her piece out, and she was willing to listen when I explained why I did what I did, that the point of this league wasn’t winning today, and that I hoped I was preparing her son for a leadership role on his school team. Or maybe she was freezing cold and couldn’t summon the energy anymore. I had two advantages: my Upper Peninsula of Michigan blood, and a much warmer coat. Maybe Mike Leach could have learned a little something, no?
So now, here I am, safe at home, no one yelling at me (yet), so I’ll take a few minutes to sum up the top five youth sports stories of the year.
5. Girls, girls, girls
Nearly 40 years after the passage of Title IX, requiring schools receiving public money to offer equal opportunities (in sports and elsewhere) to boys and girls, we’re still fighting about what that means. The most notable cases were in Indiana and Florida. The Indiana High School Athletic Association folded quickly, and correctly, when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 14-year-old girl who wanted to try out for her high school baseball team, but was told state rules required her to play the “equal” sports of girls’ softball. She didn’t make the team, but of course that wasn’t the point.
By the way, with no litigation involved Emily Montgomery of Vincennes (Ind.) Rivet played left field for the school’s baseball team, which made it to the Class A state final before losing. Montgomery also played in the Class A state finals for girls’ basketball, too. Her brother asked her to join the baseball team for a practical reason — the school has only 92 students and otherwise would have had only 10 members.
Meanwhile, in Florida, things were a little more contentious.
A lawsuit filed by lead attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer, fought the state high school athletic association’s scheduling cuts to all sports except football and cheerleading, in the name of saving money as the state’s property tax collections went south with the housing market (which was no longer coming south). The lawsuit alleged Title IX violations because the cuts were not made equally. Originally, the Florida High School Athletic Association said they were, because, get this, football officially is a coed sport. Hey, just because only three girls out of 36,000 players are on rosters isn’t because chicks aren’t invited! (And you can’t cut cheerleading, because if you have football, you gotta have cheerleaders.)
Dutifully embarrassed, the FHSAA dropped the football-as-coed-sport nonsense and stopped the statewide cuts. Although, speaking of cuts, that brings us to our No. 4 story…
4. The economy’s effect on youth sports
Florida was one of multiple states that looked at cutting sports schedules statewide as a means of saving money. Although few did, a lot of cuts happened at the local level, most famously in Grove City, Ohio, where all extracurricular activities were cut after voters multiple times rejected tax increases (and then came back when they finally approved one). Schools nationwide implemented pay-to-play programs, meaning students were charged a fee when they previously were not in order to play sports.
However, the down economy did not necessarily mean that fewer children were playing. In fact, many cities nationwide were building large youth sports facilities in hopes of attracting tournaments that could fill up local hotels and restaurants, and fill up tax coffers hurting from the closing of the local plant.
Dallas Morning News reporter Barry Horn happened to look at his newspaper’s girls’ basketball box scores and noticed something unusual: Covenant School 100, Dallas Academy 0. So he did a nice little story about Dallas Academy, a private school geared toward kids with learning disabilities, and one that has had athletic success. About 663,000 first-day page views later, 100-0 was a Rorschach test about sportsmanship. Did Covenant coach Micah Grimes run up the score by playing pressing defense for too long? Or was Dallas Academy responsible for preparing a team well enough so it didn’t get smoked 100-0? (Complicating matters was that Dallas Academy often was portrayed as a team of Special Olympians, when in fact the disabilities ran to the likes of ADHD and dyslexia.)
Blowout scores are endemic to girls’ basketball, where the quality of talent, coaching and commitment vary widely from school to school in comparison to boys’ sports. But all the bad publicity about 100-0, and Grimes’ public statement against his school’s apology for it, led to the coach’s firing in January, two weeks after the game. Meaning, Mike Leach was not the only Texas coach in 2009 to get canned after refusing to apologize.
A post-script: in December, Dallas Academy got its first victory since 2001-02, aided by a new team member who scored 31 of its 34 points in a 34-33 triumph. Another post-script: Dallas Academy also dropped out of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, meaning that Covenant was no longer forced to face it in association play.
2. The trial of David Jason Stinson
Stinson was indicted last January in Louisville, Ky., on reckless homicide charges after one his Pleasure Ridge Park High School football players, 15-year-old Max Gilpin, collapsed and died in an August 2008 practice. Gilpin was ruled to have died from overheating, and Stinson (by then the former Pleasure Ridge Park coach) became what was believed to be the first coach in the nation to face criminal charges for a player’s practice- or game-related death.
Youth and school coaches nationwide watched Stinson’s case closely (and some did more than that, contributing to his legal defense fund) for fear that they could be next if something terrible happened on their watch. After all, the case against Stinson was built mainly on him making his players run “gassers” at the end of a practice in 94-degree heat-index weather, and Stinson’s bluster that he was going to keep his team running until somebody quit, and his allegedly denying players water. Sounds harsh, but it also sounds like what 90 percent of coaches have done at some point.
It turned out that it took the jury only 90 minutes to acquit Stinson, in part because of evidence Gilpin took Adderall and creatine, both of which can cause quicker dehydration. (A civil suit filed by Gilpin’s parents, however, is still in play.) Still, his case, if nothing else, got a lot of coaches and authorities to take heat and dehydration more seriously, including in Kentucky, where the state legislature beefed up rules on access to trainers and handling sports in the heat.
But even despite the tragedy of a teenager’s death, Stinson and Gilpin didn’t turn out to be the top youth sports story of the year, or even the top youth sports-related health issue of the year. That honor goes to…
No longer is a player who gets a little foggy someone who is “dinged.” From pro leagues on down, concussions — brain injuries — are being taken seriously more than they ever have. Let’s put it this way: had alleged prima donna Adam James been allegedly locked in a room by his head coach, Mike Leach, because he had a bruised sternum, Leach might be coaching Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, being played as I type this, instead of preparing his lawsuit against the school for firing him.
Washington this year became the first state to require young athletes diagnosed with concussions to get medical clearance before returning to action, and bills regarding concussion safety have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. It’s not just football players suffering — one girl speaking out in favor of the Senate bill is a 16-year-old who quit basketball after 11 concussions. Eleven!
Concussions aren’t just a story confined to 2009. It goes to the top spot because they will be a topic of conversation and debate for years to come. Already, there’s discussion of what the future of football will be, or how long it has one, because of the prevalance of concussions.
Also, I can’t leave this topic without acknowledging the hard work of Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, who has covered concussions thoroughly for years, and might just be single-handedly responsible for this whole conversation we’re having about them. There are going to be people who literally will owe their lives to him.
The Florida High School Athletic Association, as expected Wednesday, rolled back a plan to cut back schedules for every sport but football and competitive cheerleading. The vote was 15-0, compared to the 9-6 vote in April that established the plan as a way to save money in the face of plummeting property tax revenues for the state’s schools.
The FHSAA was sued on behalf of girls who argued their Title IX rights were violated because by not touching football, the cuts overwhelmingly affected girls’ participation compared with boys’. The FHSAA may well still be ready to argue in court on Friday in Jacksonville that football is a coed sport (the most recenty numbers I’ve seen are 40,000 boys and eight girls, up from the previous count of three.) But Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the lawyer/ex-Olympic swimmer/mother of twin daughters handling the Title IX lawsuit, says she will continue to seek an injunction against the just-rejected plan so the FHSAA can’t try it again. She’ll probably get it, if not Friday, then soon enough.
Personal foul against the FHSAA, taking Title IX to the ground and givin’ it the business.
Coincidentally, the FHSAA’s change of heart comes the day a group called the College Sports Council put out a release touting a study claiming scholarship discrimination by NCAA programs — against men. From the release, passed to me by the group’s PR contact, Eric McErlain (one of the best hockey bloggers in the business, by the way):
The findings of a first-of-a-kind study of NCAA participation and scholarship data conducted by the College Sports Council (CSC) shows that in NCAA Division I “gender symmetric sports” (teams where both male and female athletes participate), female students are accorded far more opportunities than male students to compete and earn scholarships.
“Because only 119 schools, or less than 12% of all NCAA member institutions, offer the full 85 football scholarships, the NCAA can’t use football to tackle criticism of their discrimination against male athletes in gender symmetric sports,” said CSC Chairman Eric Pearson. “This new study appears to provide prima facie evidence of disparate treatment of male students by the 28% of NCAA Division I schools that don’t sponsor football teams.”
Findings of the study, the first of its kind to compare scholarship opportunities for men and women in NCAA Division I using the organization’s own data, include:
- At the NCAA Division I level, there are far more women’s teams (2,653) than men’s teams (2,097). The study found the greatest gender disparities in favor of women in the sports of Volleyball (313 to 21) and Soccer (300 to 195).
- Overall in “gender symmetric” sports, there are far more scholarships available for women (32,656) than for men (20,206). This disparity is pronounced through virtually all “gender symmetric” sports because of NCAA scholarship limits. As a result, even in one of the only sports where there are more men’s teams, golf (285 to 228), there are still more athletic scholarships available for women (1,368 to 1,282.5).
- In every “gender symmetric” sport with the exception of gymnastics, men face longer odds against getting a scholarship than women. By far, the most difficult athletic scholarship to obtain at the Division I level is in men’s volleyball, where there are 489 high school athletes for every full NCAA scholarship. Similar long odds exist for men competing in Track and Field/Cross-Country (221 to 1), Soccer and Water Polo (196 to 1) and Tennis (136 to 1).
Before you dismiss the College Sports Council as being charter members of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club, it should be noted that the organization includes a lot of people associated with programs that have gotten the ass end of Title IX. Generally colleges, instead of merely expanding opportunities for women, have tried to game their numbers by cutting men’s nonrevenue sports such as gymnastics and wrestling.
It could be argued that the Florida High School Athletic Association tried to do merely what its college brethren have done — protect football uber alles, and slash and burn everywhere else they can get away with. The issue of Florida’s financial problems doesn’t go away. In fact, FHSAA board members said after the vote that individual schools will now have to make their own cutbacks.
Other states, such as Nevada and Delaware, have cut back schedules for other sports and left football alone, with the argument that football pays the freight and needs to be protected. But in many cases at the high school and college level, football brings in a lot of money, but it also costs a lot of money. Some problems might be solved in making football cut back a little, for a change.
Florida high school girls, if you’ve ever wondered about whether you should go out for your tackle football team, wonder no more.
You don’t need to be worried that some good-ol’-boy coach is going to point you to the cheerleading tryouts. You don’t have to fret that your classmates will think you’re some sort of lesbian, and not the hot kind who appears on Howard Stern. Most importantly, you do not have to shoulder the burden of being a female breaking into a male sport.
That’s because the Florida High School Athletics Association has declared, in court, in very legal language, that football is a coed sport.
Likely Seminole High 2009 starting lineup.
If some local version of Gary Barnett tries to pick on you by saying not only are you a girl, but you’re terrible, so what? If you do this right, there are going to at least 50 other girls right there with you on the practice field. After all, the leaders of high school sports in Florida said this is how things are supposed to be.
Well, technically the FHSAA is ass-covering with its Sarah Palin-timed response (right before the July 4th holiday) to a lawsuit against its board’s 9-6 vote in April to chop varsity sports games by 20 percent, and junior varsity, and freshman games by 40 percent, for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years — for everyone sport except football and competitive cheerleading. You can’t cut football, because that’s a moneymaker! And you can’t cut cheerleading, because who the hell is going to yell their pretty little heads off for the football team?
If the FHSAA had just cut everything across the board, as New York has done, it might have been OK. After all, schools are funded by property taxes, and Florida’s are adjusted annually based on the average home sale price in January. As you might expect in a once-hot, cratering real estate market, schools are watching their bottom lines bottom out with every budget cycle.
Alas, by carving out an exception, the FHSAA left itself open to a lawsuit, and indeed a class-action case was filed in June on behalf of six girls, on the basis that the policy disparately treats female athletes under Title IX, the 1972 federal law requiring gender equity in school sports.
So there is where crisis meets opportunity for you football-loving Florida girls. The FHSAA did not say it was good on gender equity because (dragging its feet until the NFL pushed for it, and until someone reminded the association of Title IX) in January it began offering girls’ flag football as a varsity sports. Given that the Indiana High School Athletic Association dropped its own equating of baseball to softball after a girl sued to overturn its no-baseball-for-the-fairer-sex rule, the Florida folks probably figured a court wouldn’t buy that brand of reasoning.
No, the FHSAA says tackle football is a coed sports because three girls play it. Statewide. Along with 36,000 boys.
OK, technically the FHSAA is correct. However, in real life, most football coaches would welcome a girl running on their field as much as they would a case of MRSA running through the locker room.
It’s possible the FHSAA will lose its lawsuit (more like probable, given Title IX’s legal winning streak), or hastily amend its cutback plan in a July 15 meeting, scheduled two days before the next court hearing. At that point, the FHSAA might try to soft-pedal what it said in court.
But the legal rule is, no take-backsies! Girls, through its legal filing, the FHSAA has explicitly endorsed — nay, demanded — your participation.
The principals can’t do anything to stop you. The athletic directors can’t do anything to stop you. The coaches can’t do anything to stop you. And damn well those snot-nosed, stinky boys can’t do anything to stop you.
Get a few friends together. Get a lot of friends together. Get a lot of girls who aren’t even Facebook friends together. Then march down to the football coach’s office, copy of the FHSAA’s filing in hand, and tell that whistle-blowing, big-gutted tough-ass that you’re all playing football this year, and there ain’t a thing he can do about it, so what blocking sled should we hit, dammit?
Today a Washington State Senate committee passed a bill that seeks to address gender inequities in youth athletics. The bill it passed was not the original version filed two weeks ago. Depending on your point of view, the new version of the bill either addresses legitimate problems regarding equal access and funding of boys’ and girls’ sports, or strips away any enforcement mechanism in such a way that makes the legislation an exercise in do-nothing do-goodism.
The bill seeks to be the second (behind similar legislation passed in California in 2004) to require publicly funded organizations, whether they be park districts, cities, townships or counties, that administer youth sports or youth sports facilities to prepare a formal statement saying they will not discriminate “against any person on the basis of sex in the operation, conduct, or administration of community athletics programs for youth or adults.”
Privately run leagues aren’t off the hook. If they lease or use any public facility, they need to prepare an anti-discrimination statement as well.
Why aren’t schools require to create such policies? Because schools are covered under Title IX. (However, third-parties using school facilities still must have an anti-discrimination policy).
Here is Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, testifying for the bill. She is one of the sponsors, and she says that in some cases boys programs are still getting preferred funding or access:
You might note her referencing a substitute bill worked out with various “stakeholders.” Presumably, though no one has said so yet, those stakeholders include parks and recreation officials. They found unworkable the original bill’s insistence on task forces (paid for with private money of an unknown source) to study the extent of gender discrimination and the establishment of public grievance procedures (paid for by the potentially offending party) if any parent complained of discrimination. Also, by 2018, it would not have been enough to defend oneself by showing you had a history of attempting to equalize funding and participation rates consistent with the male-female ratio in your purview. If you didn’t, you could be screwed.
Thus, all those parts were stripped out of the bill, lest it not pass because of the fear that cash-strapped municipalities and park districts would end up shoving the knife even further into youth sports than it would otherwise.
So what’s left is a requirement about adding anti-discrimination language, which doesn’t seem like much. But it would be more than 48 other states have done. While I haven’t run into obvious cases of discrimination involving my daughters yet (one of whom is only three, so it’s not like she’s had a chance), no doubt there are plenty of places where boys get the meat and girls get the scraps. An anti-discrimination policy is the least any youth sports organization or facilities manager can do.
I would come down on the side saying it’s a good thing the onerous legalese and paperwork requirements were cut out of the bill, but then again I’m a man, so what do I know? Having codified anti-discrimination language does at least give aggrieved girls and their parents an greater opening to fight if needed — and give leagues and facilities’ lawyers one more very good way to advise their clients how not to get sued. I suspect even with this watered-down bill, some girls in Washington are going to be helped.
As for the boys? I doubt they’ll be tossed onto to the street — unless there is some parks manager deciding to act like a jerk just to make the bill, and the girls, look bad.