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Nov 20, 2023
Brisket Contributor
Some Title IX myths and how Title IX isn't really a barrier to adding men's sports.

I posted this as a response in another thread, but it has a lot of applications so I'm posting as its own thread. A little background, I was an employee of two P4 athletic departments. One as a tutor at BYU and another as a graduate consultant at ASU. At BYU I spoke to many coaches and learned of their opinions on the removal and addition of men's sports and when I brought up Title IX they had a lot to say about what it really means. As you can imagine, olympic sports coaches know a lot about Title IX. At ASU I was there during the elevation of men's hockey from club to NCAA status. This was interesting as there aren't a whole lot of other schools that had men's hockey as an NCAA sport around the state of Arizona. Travel was going to be a beast, and ASU didn't have a nearby arena which to use as a viable venue, they ended up building a new $134 million dollar arena for a men's only sport. Needless to say, I learned even more about Title IX from that.

To get started, here is a link directly from the NCAA:

Here are some highlights:

Q. How does an institution comply with Title IX?

A: An institution must meet all of the following requirements in order to be in compliance with Title IX:

  • For participation requirements, institutions officials must meet one of the following three tests. An institution may:
    • Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students;
    • Demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex;
      Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; and,
    • Female and male student-athletes must receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and, Equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the eleven provisions as mentioned above.

The part in bold is the key there. When ASU added men's hockey they looked into whether they had to add a women's team as well.  They did not because the interest on campus to participate was not there for a women's hockey team. Now, could a female student file a Title IX suit against the school? Sure, but both ASU and the NCAA deemed that there was not enought interest and the female student would almost certainly lose the lawsuit. 

Q. Does Title IX require that equal dollars be spent on men and women's sports?

A. No. The only provision that requires that the same dollars be spent proportional to participation is scholarships. Otherwise, male and female student-athletes must receive equitable "treatment" and "benefits."

Note that scholarships must be in proportion to participation.  If 40% of participants in your athletic program are female than they must receive 40% of the scholarship dollars.  Many men's sports are already alloted fewer scholarships than womens' programs. Men's volleyball is a great example as they are only alloted 4.5 schollarships.  I would say in 90% of cases a school will be fine as long as it follows the NCAA scholarship limits.

Q. Does Title IX require identical athletics programs for males and females? 

A. Title IX does not require identical athletics programs for males and females. Rather, Title IX requires that the athletics programs meet the interests and abilities of each gender. Under Title IX, one team is not compared to the same team in each sport. OCR examines the total program afforded to male student-athletes and the total program afforded to female student-athletes and whether each program meets the standards of equal treatment. Title IX does not require that each team receive exactly the same services and supplies. Rather, Title IX requires that the men and women's program receive the same level of service, facilities, supplies and etc. Variations within the men and women's program are allowed, as long as the variations are justified.

Here is the interest issue again. A school can add a sport, men's or women's, if there is demonstrated interest for participation in the sport. This can be cleared with the NCAA who will give a school the go ahead.  This isn't strictly required as it is the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) who enforces Title IX, but if a suit is filed with the OCR and the school presents evidence that the NCAA agreed with the school that interest for participation did (or did not) exist then the OCR will usually side with the school. This goes both ways. There is a reason why men's field hockey is not an NCAA sport but women's is.Q. Does Title IX mandate that a decrease in opportunities for male athletes be made in order to provide an increase in opportunities for female athletes?

Q. Does Title IX mandate that a decrease in opportunities for male athletes be made in order to provide an increase in opportunities for female athletes? 

A. Title IX does not require reductions in opportunities for male student-athletes. One of the purposes is to create the same opportunity and quality of treatment for both female and male student-athletes. Eliminating men sports programs is not the intent of Title IX. The intent of Title IX is to bring treatment of the disadvantaged gender up to the level of the advantaged group.

This goes back to the demand for participation in sports. Lots of schools have men's wrestling but most do not have women's wrestling. Women's wrestling is likely to become a NCAA championship sport soon. (see the link below.)  That does not mean that every school with men's wrestling is going to have to add women's wrestling or drop their men's program.  If there isn't enough interest for women's wrestling, then nothing needs to happen.

Now, in final, the interesting thing about Title IX is that under the regulations, the men could file a Title IX suit against the school arguing that they have not provided equal participation opportunities with the women to compete for a NCAA title.  There is precedent for this at the high school level.  In Arizona the parents of club boys volleyball players successfully sued the Tucson school district and the AIA because boys volleyball was not a sanctioned sport despite the demand for it.  Today, most 5A-6A schools in Arizona have boys volleyball, and even some 4A schools.  Given that Title IX applies equally to high schools and colleges (as long as they receive federal funds) the same arguments could be made at the NCAA level.  Now, am I saying such a suit would win at BYU? Absolutely not. I have no idea how such a suit would go.  I'm just saying it is possible.

There are a lot of myths about Title IX and if it had not been for my time in two P4 athletics programs I would probably believe most of those myths.  But when you actually go through and read the regulations you start to see that there are not as many barriers to men's sports as you would think.  The main barrier for ALL olympic sports is revenue, and I can understand that.  A school has limited dollars and needs to focus on what makes money and where the strongest interest is.  Unfortunately some sports that I would love to see added at BYU will not be added.


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