Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

On a Level Playing Field

For many female athletes, the decision to attend college forced them to choose between athletics or academics. Before America turned its attention to gender equity in athletics, many women gave up competition for an education because the sport they played often was not offered at the college they attended.

However, at Georgetown, the continued expansion of the women’s athletics program and the addition of two new women’s teams will help alleviate the difficult decision between academics and athletics.

In 1972, Congress made a historic attempt at building gender equity in passing Title IX. Almost three decades later, it is commonly berated for its negative effect on male athletic programs at colleges and universities across the nation rather than being praised for increasing opportunities for females in athletics. As many schools cut male programs to equal the funding given to the comparatively underfunded female programs, some question the efficacy of achieving Title IX’s goals.

The statute simply states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person or otherwise be . subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” By cutting male programs to achieve equality, many schools are missing the intended benefits, creating animosity and bitterness among student athletes.

In the wake of nationwide friction surrounding Title IX, Georgetown recently announced plans to include golf and softball as women’s varsity to remain in compliance with Title IX. Unlike James Madison, Miami of Ohio and other institutions across the country opting to eliminate male programs, Georgetown has chosen a path to compliance which school officials feel represents the intent of Title IX.

“We believe we should boast a continued history of expansion,” said Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Legal Affairs Adam Brick.

In Georgetown’s mission and goals statement, the school assures that “the athletics department is committed to, fosters and pursues the fair and equitable treatment of both men and women … Each sport receives equivalent access to facilities, administrative support, medical services and support services … Every sport has the same off-field/off-court goal of producing successful young men and women.”

For compliance, Title IX states that all schools and higher education institutions are required to meet at least one of three conditions, the first of which is that they can maintain the same male to female ratio of student athletes as undergraduates. Most schools throughout the country chose to meet this first requirement, Brick said. According to Director of Athletics Joseph C. Lang, this condition would be difficult to meet because the male to female ratio of undergraduate students varies significantly at competitive liberal arts colleges like Georgetown.

During the 1999-2000 school year, the undergraduate population at Georgetown was 46 percent male and 54 percent female, Brick said. The student-athlete population for the same year was 57 percent male and 43 percent female. While the new golf and softball teams will about 30 female athletes, this will not balance out the percentages.

Rather than struggle to maintain proportional percentages, Georgetown has decided to commit itself to upholding a combination of Title IX’s final two requirements: consistently expanding programs for women and “fully and effectively” meeting the interests and abilities of women by offering unique and varied opportunities, according to Brick.

Another option commonly chosen by universities to reach proportionality is to limit the number of males on each team. According to Brick, men’s teams tend to be larger because male athletes tend to be more willing to “ride the bench.” However, Georgetown does not limit the number of males on each team to comply with Title IX. When viewed from a management standpoint, this alternative might be administered as a “better way to use resources,” Birch said.

“While many schools have opted to drop men’s programs or just decrease the number of men in order to achieve proportionality, that was never [Georgetown’s] intent,” Brick said. “This institution has a commitment under the Jesuit philosophy to a sound mind and sound body.”

Over the past decade, Georgetown has added two women’s sports: soccer (1991) and lightweight crew (1999). The addition of golf in the fall of 2001 and softball in the 2003-04 school year will increase the number of women’s athletic teams to 14. It will also fulfill the second and third requirements of Title IX by expanding the women’s athletic programs and at the same time accommodating the interests of women athletes at Georgetown.

“While we’re not going to be in proportionality, we’re certainly meeting the interest and abilities of the women students,” Brick said. “We will have the top 10 sports offered around the country in college and high school. We will have 27 sports, 14 of them women’s sports.”

Until the past two decades, many schools avoided the limitations of Title IX by postponing and ignoring needed improvements in female athletics. However, since then the guidelines of the act have been more strictly enforced. Many female athletes have come forward and fought for their rights under Title IX, urging schools to expand their women’s athletic programs. Throughout its existence, no female has ever lost a gender equity court case against a school.

In the 1990s, Brown University incurred several legal battles against female athletes. In 1993, Cohen v. Brown University set the precedent for compliance with Title IX. Since it had recently dropped women’s volleyball and gymnastics, Brown could not prove it was adhering to any of the Title IX requirements, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cohen’s favor.

Since the 29-year-old federal statute does not adapt to all situations, many schools are eliminating men’s athletic teams instead of expanding their women’s programs. In doing so, universities save money while complying with the statute. As a result, the schools may be working against Title IX’s fundamental goal of implementing increased gender equality.

Since 1992, over 350 schools resorted to this tactic, according to InterMat Wrestling, a promoter of amateur wrestling. In the fall of 1998, Providence College announced it would drop golf, men’s tennis and baseball. The latter was an 80-year-old program that won the Big East Championship the previous year. Last year Brigham Young University terminated its men’s gymnastics and wrestling squads, despite national rankings. The programs were cut in an attempt comply with Title IX by reallocating money from men’s sports to women’s programs, rather than increasing the amount of money involved in the athletic program.

“Over the past 18 months, we vigorously pursued all options available to us,” Providence’s Assistant Vice President for Athletics John M. Marinatto said in a 1998 press release. “We looked at what was realistic given our gender balance and the national projections. It became apparent to us that we could not add funding to athletics and that reallocation was our only path.”

Another factor schools consider in relation to Title IX is financial equity. According to Title IX, the “availability, quality and kinds of benefits, opportunities and treatment” given to male and female athletic programs should be equal in proportion. According to Brick, funding for athletic teams comes in the forms of scholarships and a “laundry list” of other items including locker rooms, facilities, support services, equipment, supplies and operating expenses.

At Georgetown, female athletes are awarded a higher percentage of scholarships than their male counterparts. For example, the NCAA allows the track and field program a maximum of 12.6 scholarships for its men’s squad while the women’s squad may grant up to 18. However, this is balanced by the fact that more funding in other areas is given to men’s teams. This is primarily because no women’s sports are comparable in expense to some men’s sports like football and lacrosse, contact sports that require more equipment.

According to Lang, women’s golf and softball will not offer scholarships, but with time the programs will be built up.

“The only thing you can’t compare is one sport to another,” said Brick, who believes concerns should be viewed on a whole-program basis. Brick said the more important factor to consider is, “Are you providing substantially equivalent benefits and services for both sexes?”

Director of track and field and cross country Ron Helmer agreed. “The men’s programs in the same sport [as the women’s] don’t present the same challenges. Any opportunity that is not a quality opportunity isn’t a step forward.”

Helmer stresses the concern of quality and accomplishment over monetary funding. “Other people think that the amount of money that you are spending to support a program translates to quality experiences,” Helmer said. “You may be balancing the Title IX equation, but I’m not certain that you’re committed to a quality experience.”

According to Helmer, in order to maintain a competitive program, Georgetown uses all 12.6 scholarships allowed for men by the NCAA, and only 13 members of the squad currently benefit from them, five less than what is permitted in compliance with Title IX.

“If you start giving money to athletes that don’t have the ability to perform, you end up hurting your program,” Helmer said. “It would start devaluing what a scholarship is worth here.”

Like the men’s team, the women’s golf team will play off campus, likely in Va., Lang said. Last week, Georgetown announced the appointment of former professional golfer Leland Beckel as the program’s head coach. Beckel graduated from the University of Virginia in 1988 and played on the winning team at the 2000 Curtis Cup. In 1999 she was third in the nation in the Golfweek/Titleist National Amateur Rankings and reached the finals at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Skiing was also a popular interest according to Brick, but since a team would suffer from lack of local competition, Georgetown opted to create women’s golf and softball programs. Softball is one of the highest participant sports in both high school and college across the country.

After 29 years, Title IX still poses dilemmas and creates controversy among athletic programs throughout the country. While other schools have eliminated programs of status within their athletic programs, Georgetown officials say the university strives to demonstrate to the best of its abilities that schools can comply without taking away from any athlete’s quality experience, male or female.

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