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Deceptive Roster Management Threatens Integrity of Title IX


A recent New York Times article, “College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity,” highlights roster manipulation, a disturbing practice utilized by colleges and universities across the country to comply with Title IX. In order to achieve parity in the number of male and female participation opportunities, institutions are engaging in deceptive practices such as counting male practice players as female participants, triple counting female track/cross country athletes who do not participate on all three teams and allowing underqualified walk-on athletes to participate on women’s teams to pad rosters.

Strictly speaking, some of these practices are not against the law nor do they violate the reporting procedures outlined by Title IX. However, these practices are concerning because they undermine the intent of Title IX, which is to provide equal access to opportunities for male and female students. Institutions that deliberately manipulate athletic rosters to inaccurately reflect the actual number of participation opportunities for female students threaten the integrity of Title IX.

We hope that institutions realize that engaging in dishonest reporting practices not only threatens equal access, but also sends the wrong message to students. Providing misleading information in order to satisfy the requirements of a federal law is not the type of behavior that we want our students to mirror. In addition, increasing gender diversity is an integral component in enhancing the collegiate experience for all students, male and female alike. We encourage institutions to maintain a commitment to expanding opportunities for female student-athletes in ways that truly benefit female students and adhere to the basic tenets of Title IX. Together, we can protect the intent of Title IX and continue to expand meaningful opportunities for all student-athletes. 

We invite you to contribute your thoughts on this topic by commenting below. (Please note that you will have to log in to comment.) Thank you!

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Nancy Hogshead-Makar of the Women's Sports Foundations posted this response on Friday, April 29:

Dear "Title9",

Sports are educational experiences, akin to math class. And like math class, they cost money that typically comes from taxes. It's been proven to be a good use of our tax dollars as an investment in our future economy. Athletes will get more education, are far more likely to work full-time, will earn higher wages. More educational and economic benefits flow to athletes than those in the yearbook club or other after-school activities.

The only difference between the math classroom and athletic teams is that this type of educational experience must be segregated by sex in order to give females (and not just the most elite ones) an opportunity to play. It is the only sex-segregated area of education - other than the bathrooms.
The numbers are clear: men have gained both numbers of teams and numbers of opportunities - last year NCAA and high schools reported record numbers.

But is taking away from males necessarily discriminatory? Is it inherently unfair for men to have to give up what they once had? My son was an only child for five years. He had a big budget and all our time. When his sisters were born, he got less. Fewer toys, less travel and less time with us. In other words, he had to share family resources. Should we tell the girls "don't ask for what your brother has -- we'll just take it away from him."?? When we have to say "no" to our son's request to play another sport, should we say, "no, we really want to, but its your your sister's fault for costing us money." As parents we have to make decisions fairly about how to divvy up the scarce resources, and I'm appalled when administrators blame Title IX for being fair.

If the baseball players are getting 20%, look to your brothers who are playing other sports and how the pie is divided among them, rather than your sisters. In 2007, all other men's sports had to share 21% of the men's total budget.

Of course those men's sports aren't profitable like the mythology surrounding them. Think about it -- if they were generating zillions, there would be plenty of money for the baseball and softball teams. Yes they make money -- but they spend more. How much more? The Knight Commission says the SEC spend over $120K/ yr on an athlete, but just $13K on a student. Even in this conference, the average school gives over $3M to athletics from academics.


And where does MOST of the money come from in athletics dept "revenue"? Donations. That's 34% that is not going to Uncle Sam. They play on facilities built with tax-free bonds, they do not pay taxes on any money over expenses, and they count student-fees as "income." (oh yes, and athletes aren't paid because... we're educating them.) We make this collective decision to forego this tax revenue not because its so darn fun to watch, but because we're investing in those kids.

If schools do not want to treat women respectfully (as your post does not) and fairly, and if they want to give all the sports to the boys - just get all the tax dollars out of it.

The following comment was made by 'Title9' to our blog post via WomenTalkSports.com on Tuesday, April 26:

Title 9 has no integrity to begin with so to say something threatens it's integrity to begin with is laughable. Title 9 is simply an attempt at social engineering trying to provide a false sense of equality in society that naturally doesn't exist. Men are physically superior to women in almost all cases therefore are more exciting to watch and that fact means they generate revenue. Only two women's college sports make money the rest are subsidized by men's sports revenue, tuition or tax increases at public universities. Do you who extole the virtues of title 9 know the ultimate cost of title 9 to poor college students and tax payers? Is equality in sports worth taking the food off of someone's table.... not in my mind but keep claiming that women's softball is worthy of a full ride scholarship while men's baseball players frequently only get 20% due to title 9 restrictions.... Your false sense of equity has consequences remember that.

The following statement was released by the NCAA this morning in response to Monday's New York Times article:

The NCAA expects its member schools to adhere to Title IX and not ignore its legitimate application, which would be a disregard of the law. The NCAA values Title IX as it represents fairness and integrity, and provides opportunities for our student-athletes to be involved in and compete in intercollegiate athletics. Opportunities to participate in team practice and competition are meant to be meaningful and relevant. It is our expectation that if a student-athlete is on a roster, that he or she will have the opportunity to practice with the team and at some point participate in competition. Though the NCAA does not investigate or enforce Title IX compliance, NCAA member schools may want to revisit the way in which they develop and manage their team rosters to ensure they are compliant and adhering to the law.

Sprawl_N_Brawl--thank you for your thoughtful remarks. We forwarded your post to our Title IX expert, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation, who was also quoted in this particular New York Times article. We will be posting her full response here, shortly.

Our Title IX Resources page is a great place to explore information and issues surrounding Title IX and the issues you mention. We believe that upholding the basic principles of Title IX is a core component in developing an equal and fair athletics experience for male and female athletes at all levels. In this difficult economic climate, many athletic departments are facing large budget shortfalls. When athletic departments are faced with the prospect of downsizing, many “minor” men’s sports are cut, whereas the “major” men’s sports are left untouched. The act of cutting “minor” men’s sports and maintaining larger rosters for “major” men’s sports does not violate Title IX, as long as equity is maintained between male and female participation opportunities. However, the ethical question you bring up here is whether or not it is in the best interest of the student-athletes and campus community to maintain 100+ person rosters for some sports, where large percentages of athletes will never actually see playing time, while cutting smaller sports where student-athletes are competing in larger percentages.

We believe that all athletic departments have a responsibility to not only provide equal access to their student-athletes, but also to make decisions that align with the values and goals of intercollegiate athletics and are in the best interest of their students. Thanks again for the post!

Lisa Nash, Programs Manager, NACWAA

I am interested in your opinion, as experts on the situation, on the way Title IX compliance is monitored by the government, and what changes might prove successful in both promoting truly equal access to athletic opportunities for female athletes and preserving those same opportunities (for both male and female athletes) in the so-called "minor" sports.

Wrestling seems to have been the hardest-hit "minor" sport at the collegiate level, and, as a coach for a junior club with very successful boys and girls (including two girls' national champions this year), I am acutely interested in preserving and growing athletic and scholarship assistance opportunities for them when the time comes.

It seems as if Title IX has become a scapegoat for athletic directors who might want to funnel even more of their budget to high-profile football and basketball programs, and thus kill wrestling (and other) programs under the guise of "compliance".

I have read suggestions that the proportionality measurements currently in use may actually be contributing to this effect, and the arguments supporting this position seem valid.

Can you suggest a monitoring strategy that would accurately gauge a school's compliance, especially now that the questionaire has been discontinued? Wrestling is becoming an increasingly important athletic endeavor (for both boys AND girls) at the primary and high school level, yet we are faced with fewer and fewer opportunities for these high school athletes to continue through their collegiate years, and the popular target for blame is Title IX.

I personally support Title IX and I feel that it has brought about great changes in both academics and athletics since my days as a schoolboy in the 1960's. I only hope that it is possible to continue promoting (enforcing?) women's access to athletic endeavors while still allowing the "minor" sports to flourish for both the men and the women interested in participating in them.

After all, Title IX is about equal access for ALL, and if the current situation is being leveraged to close off opportunities for non-football playing student athletes, then it really isn't meeting its mission. Any insight or links to more information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Please feel free to leave comments, links or suggestions at the following page:


Thank you