Upon further review, Florida reverses school sports cutbacks
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.