Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We've Moved!

As of May 23, 2012, we'll be blogging away at www.savingsports.org. We hope you'll join us there!

Our new site will have this blog's full archive, in addition to many more exciting capabilities to share posts with your networks.

Thanks!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is It So Hard to Fact Check?

Slanted coverage of Title IX celebrations and academic symposia is unfortunately expected and widely tolerated, but that doesn't mean we can't publicly hold journalists accountable.

The latest example is a May 18th Twin Cities Daily Planet story, "Looking at girls in sports as Title IX marks 40 years in Minnesota and the United States." It's painfully clear that reporter Charlie Hallman fell under activists' spells when recapping the "Title IX at 40" SHARP Center event. Again, no surprise there. The Women's Sports Foundation (WSF) is one of SHARP's co-sponsors and advocates for proportionality policies, erroneously blames basketball and football for men's cuts and repeatedly dispenses talking points completely ignorant of reality.

Granted, Mr. Hallman only covered the specific conference, but he could have least carried out some simple fact checking to validate statements or point out inaccuracies before publishing. Or even better, he could have added some outside sources to counterbalance the 12 — yes, 12 — sources he cited or quoted who all held the same, biased views.

Here's a telling excerpt:
Mainstream media too often reports on the popular belief about Title IX that men’s sports have been cut because of it, says Drexel University Sport Management Professor Ellen Staurowsky. Such headlines as ‘Title IX harms men’ and ‘Title IX has gone too far’ are misleading and create “rancor,” she explains. 
“Title IX has nothing to do with that. Reporters should take a critical view, or at least explore the validity of a certain statement when certain claims are made,” the professor continued. Staurowsky added that in such cases when a certain sport program is indeed eliminated, “almost 99 percent of these cases, there is a larger issue at stake beyond what’s going on [with Title IX]. ... Beyond the issue of accuracy of informing the public, I think the other issue we need to be addressing is by repeating this message over and over again, we create a framework in the minds of the next generation of leaders is that this is what to expect from Title IX.”
First things first: we wish Professor Staurowsky was correct that the media commonly exposes men's cuts caused by Title IX. Conversely, those "terrible" headlines that cause "rancor" are few and far between. The bitter truth is that Title IX enforcement encourages schools to cut and cap men's teams, so imagine the pain and disappointment those boys feel when they have to face this reality. If activists feel uncomfortable with that, too bad. Maybe they should try working on their empathy and rethink their most favorite Title IX policies due to all the harms they cause.

Also, did anyone bother to ask her where she found the 99 percent statistic or whether she even examined press releases schools put out when announcing team cuts? Title IX most certainly affects — if not outright governs — schools' decisions. If schools were using Title IX as a facade for budget reasons, they would reinstate cut teams after they fundraised enough money themselves.

Ironically, Staurowsky is right to ask for reporters to conduct basic accuracy assessments of people making claims about Title IX. She just doesn't realize that she and the rest of the crew cited in the article always get a free ride when it comes to making baseless statements in the media.

Friday, May 18, 2012

SMC Update: Students, College Happy; Title IX Blog Complains

We mentioned that students, coaches and administrators are thrilled that Santa Monica College (SMC) added men's soccer after an almost decade-long absence. California is a hotbed of soccer, so of course they're celebrating.

As predictable as ever, the Title IX Blog's Erin Buzuvis wants to shut down the party, citing the lack of proportionality between the school's athletic and student populations. You see, prior to the addition of men's soccer, the school sponsored 8 women's teams and 8 men's teams, with 125 and 166 athletes, respectively. There were 10,920 students in the student population, comprised of 5,676 females and 5,244 men. For Ms. Buzuvis, the numerical differences represent the barriers to athletics faced by female students. If there are less female athletes despite a majority of female students, the school must be ignoring their preferences and failing to present enough opportunities.

Her conspiratorial post suggests that she knows better than SMC officials responsible for investigating the possibility of new sports. She ponders the "college's prudence and good judgment" for adding a men's sport, thinks SMC would have acted differently "if OCR was looking over their shoulder" and "shed[s] some skepticism on the claim that all women's interests are satisfied by SMC's existing opportunities."

The evidence tells a different story — one that shows that school officials are committed to maintaining compliance with Title IX. Every year, the school reviews forms filled out by incoming students. According to this Corsair article, "[b]ased on incoming student application data that is looked over annually, all the women’s sports that incoming students wished to play have been accounted for and offered at SMC." Other school officials also seriously reviewed Title IX regulations because they recognized obstacles to and ramifications of adding a men's sport. Athletics project manager Joe Cascio even stated, “Our goal is to continue to offer all of the sports that our students want to play that are available in the California Community College system.” After checking all the boxes, SMC decided it was clear to add men's soccer, which was the most requested sport by potential, incoming and current students.

Yet Ms. Buzuvis questions legitimate proof because it led to the addition of a men's team. She's unhappy with the school's reliance on the third prong — interest — to determine how to ensure equality of opportunity. She points to the OCR's 1996 clarifications to show why this prong isn't appropriate in this instance, yet ironically contradicts the advice. The clarification clearly states: "the three-part test furnishes an institution with three individual avenues to choose from when determining how it will provide individuals of each sex with nondiscriminatory opportunities to participate in intercollegiate athletics. If an institution has met any part of the three-part test, OCR will determine that the institution is meeting this requirement."

Well now we know: if Ms. Buzuvis doesn't agree with how a school chooses to comply with Title IX, especially if it relies on an under-utilized prong, that school is guilty of discrimination against girls and merits a smack down from the OCR. In reality, if schools are following the heart of Title IX, both men and women will benefit, and both will see the addition of teams that reflect their interests.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Men's Soccer Returns to Santa Monica College

The excitement is genuine for soccer players and coaches who've been deprived of the opportunity to play and train for such a long time.

According to The Corsair:
“I am happy to be one of the people to bring men’s soccer back to Santa Monica College,” said SMC President Chui L. Tsang. “We have a great tradition with the women, so I hope that men’s soccer will be just as popular as the women’s soccer.” 
According to Pierce, it took a long time to get the team back on the field because the Western States Conference wasn’t admitting any new teams. The almost 10-year-hiatus from men’s soccer was due to the team’s expulsion from the league after both a Title IX violation and a fight that the team had started.
The fact that SMC relied on the third prong — student interest — to add this sport is an added bonus:
Mike Tuitasi, SMC Vice President of Student Affairs, said that SMC is in compliance with Title IX because men’s soccer has been the most requested sport by incoming students during the application process. 
“We have a lot of students that want to play and we’re trying to provide that opportunity for them,” said Tuitasi.
Good luck, boys!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CA Lawmaker Speaks Truths on Title IX, Bashing Ensues

The overblown, hostile reactions following California Assemblyman Chris Norby's public criticism of Title IX enforcement would be laughable if they didn't mean that the media and activist groups actually believe that Title IX is impervious to criticism. The last time I checked, our society welcomes — no, cherishes — free speech, even if it's not so pleasant or what the majority of people want to hear. And while contentious debates are permissible for every other law, disagreeing with some aspects of Title IX is just impossible without silencing backlash.

And that's a shame, especially because Mr. Norby's comments were truthful:
"We need to be honest about the effects of what I believe are faulty court interpretations or federal enforcement of Title IX, because it has led to the abolition of many male sports across the board in UCs and Cal States...And that was never the intention of this, to have numerical equality. It was never the intention to attain equality by reducing opportunities for the men."
What's so controversial about what he said? Nothing, except the regulations, court decisions and cuts he alluded to. Schools, government bureaucrats, and the courts have said that when girls are cut, that's sex discrimination; when guys are cut, tough luck. Their policies dictate equal outcomes — "numerical equality" — no matter what students' real preferences are, forcing thousands of men to forgo sports while putting pressure on girls to join teams. They've enforced a system that punishes male athletes for wanting to play sports — because they are men. What happened to adhering to "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from..."?

Title IX was created to end the double standard, to guarantee equal opportunities for both genders. Yet here we are, 40 years after the creation of Title IX, and it's still acceptable to discriminate on the basis of sex via enforcement policies that rely on numbers, not human beings, to judge schools' compliance with Title IX. And not only that, we are chastising people like Mr. Norby who recognize that this phenomenon is real — and rampant.

Contrary to the popular assertion that Title IX reform will set us back, detract from the athletic experiences of female athletes, and establish male-only sports departments, altering the law's regulations will strengthen it and guarantee that men and women who want to play sports are able to. Mr. Norby is both correct and brave to reflect on how far we've veered away from the original Title IX path; anniversaries aren't just for celebrating.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Title IX Should Benefit All, Not Some

As the old saying goes, "One person's loss is another person's gain." It's often repeated in the context of finding a dropped 5 dollar bill, saying goodbye to a coworker or describing the current stock market situation.

But is it acceptable to throw around when talking about sports opportunities in K-12 and college? Absolutely not. Students' athletic experiences should not be interchangeable. Period.

Apparently, Gazettes reporter Mike Guardabascio seems to think that as long as some students are benefitting from athletics, it doesn't matter who or what is sacrificed along the way:
But for every hurdle Title IX creates, it also affords an opportunity, and a promise: that if the next Billie Jean King or Susie Atwood comes along, they’ll be given a chance to compete for their schools, and etch their name at the bottom of Long Beach’s long list of high school and college trailblazers.
It's clear that Guardabascio just doesn't understand the severity of Title IX's unintended consequences. The only negative aspect of Title IX enforcement he (barely) mentions is the inability of Long Beach State's football team to get reinstated, even though the effects of proportionality are much more profound.

An intentional shortage of opportunities is devastating to boys who have practiced sports their whole life, relied on scholarships, wanted to stay out of trouble, and reaped the physical and mental benefits of joining a team. When teams are cut to make way for new ones, real people are affected; this is an emotional aspect that so many reporters and activists ignore. Asking men to "get over it" and accept that they are pawns in a numbers game is not only unfair, but the complete antithesis of Title IX's spirit. Whereas we should be offering opportunities based on interest, blind to gender, we are striking them down at an alarming rate because of it.

It's time Guardabascio and the whole rest of the lot understand that getting rid of men's teams to try to produce "the next Billie Jean King or Susie Atwood" is sex discrimination at its finest and should not be tolerated. The law's regulations must reflect that both genders should be able to excel at sports, and that they can't to the fullest if one is being brought down to benefit the other.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is It So Hard To Give the Full Story?

For Erin Buzuvis, co-author of the Title IX Blog, why yes, relaying all of the facts to her readers is just too difficult. Case in point: Her post detailing Butler University's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) compliance review wrap-up leaves out a key point simply because it does not align with her views.

The examination was conducted to address two facets of Butler's athletic department: The breakdown of male and female athletes and the allocation of scholarships to each gender. The official OCR press release includes the answers to both questions:
According to data provided by Butler, during the 2010-11 school year women made up 2,267, or 59.6 percent, of the university’s full-time undergraduate students. But, the institution’s 164 female athletes comprised only 36.5 percent of its 449 athletes. Butler’s 285 male athletes represented 63.5 percent of its athletes. During the 2010-11 academic year, the university distributed more than $3.8 million in athletic scholarships to male and female athletes. Women received 53.4 percent of this amount and men 46.6 percent.
While Buzuvis underscores the different participation percentages of males and females and insinuates that discrimination must be occurring, she omits any reference to the discrepancies in scholarship funding. The fact that male athletes receive less scholarships even though there are more of them is no minor detail. The fact that OCR is tasking Butler with ensuring that "equal opportunities are being provided in awarding athletic scholarships to male and female athletes" in addition to actual athletic opportunities is extremely noteworthy.

Without a doubt, Buzuvis intentionally overlooked this point. She is an outspoken advocate of proportionality and has continually turned the other away when cuts and caps to men's teams have caused discrimination simply because of their gender (but if they were female, we certainly know what the reaction would be). She has made it her business to post whenever celebratory, one-sided coverage of Title IX hits, but she does not feel obligated to report on the consequential downsides to Title IX.

Buzuvis should have included the full story, but didn't. She calls her site the "Title IX Blog," yet draws attention to situations in which women are discriminated against, not men. It's unfortunate to have to issue this reminder to a credentialed professor who specializes in Title IX, but here it is:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination," guarantees Title IX. So when men are told to pack up because there are too many of them showing up to play sports, or when popular sports can't be added because they will "throw off the numbers," and even when scholarships are disproportionate to the number of male athletes, schools are consciously disregarding Title IX. Yes, OCR regulations say that schools should use the Three-Part test to comply, and yes, that also includes a proportionality component, but how much longer can we tolerate the discrimination and harm that they are causing to one gender?

Update: The Title IX Blog has updated it's site to include a post on Butler's scholarships situation. At the start of writing our post, the Title IX Blog had not yet commented on this facet of the OCR investigation. We are also unaware of whether a new post is coincidental or in response to our rebuttal. The general point still stands regardless of today's addition: All of the facts must be included at the time of writing, even if they are unfavorable.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Rare, Welcomed Voice of Reason on Title IX

Despite a media environment that is hostile to critics and hopeful reformers of Title IX, Doug Robinson, columnist at the Deseret News, bravely tells us what he really thinks about the law:
While everyone is celebrating the upcoming 40th birthday of Title IX, shouldn't we also hold a funeral for men's sports?

I hate to rain on the party (not really), but if Title IX is gender equity (it isn't), then we should look at the effects of the law from the men's side, too.  
But first, a disclaimer: If you try to turn this into a rant against women's sports, you're missing the point. I've coached both female and male high school athletes in track and field since 1990. I've coached hundreds of girls and seen sports change their lives for better in many ways. I've seen girl athletes produce great performances. I've seen girls with the heart of Secretariat and the toughness of a linebacker, including one who went airborne like Superman to edge a rival at the finish line.  
It's amazing to remember that high school sports didn't even exist when I was a teenager. There are generations of women who never experienced sweat and competition and hard physical training and being part of a team and all the other benefits of competitive athletics (then again, maybe some of my girl athletes tell their mothers they're lucky they never had to do 8 x 400 meters in 72-75 seconds with two minutes rest).  
All this notwithstanding, the way Title IX has been interpreted is wrong, period. 
The original law, as passed in 1972, stated, "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." 
But that is exactly what is happening in collegiate sports, except now it's the men who are being denied opportunities and subjected to discrimination.  
That's because in 1979 the Office of Civil Rights interpreted the law to mean strict proportionality — in other words, if a school's enrollment was 51 percent women and 49 percent men, then athletic scholarships and spending should be exactly the same.
And yet the original Title IX law, passed in 1972, required that schools examine "whether the selection of sports and levels of competition effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of members of both sexes."   
It also states that the law should not "be interpreted to require any education institution to grant preferential or disparate treatment to one sex on account of an imbalance which may exist" in the numbers of each sex participating in a sport.  
That is exactly what has happened.  
Read the whole column here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Butler U.'s Title IX Investigation Has Wrapped, but Its Story Is Just Beginning

A U.S. Department of Education press release announced today, "U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Butler University to Resolve Title IX Athletics Compliance Review."

The investigation, which began last summer to assess the number of opportunities offered to female students and whether scholarships are allocated according to athletic enrollment, found the University has discriminated.

This outcome comes as no surprise given the numbers-centric analysis, which the press release posts:
"According to data provided by Butler, during the 2010-11 school year women made up 2,267, or 59.6 percent, of the university’s full-time undergraduate students.  But, the institution’s 164 female athletes comprised only 36.5 percent of its 449 athletes. Butler’s 285 male athletes represented 63.5 percent of its athletes. During the 2010-11 academic year, the university distributed more than $3.8 million in athletic scholarships to male and female athletes. Women received 53.4 percent of this amount and men 46.6 percent."
The agreement holds that Butler has until September 1 to:
" demonstrate that it is accommodating effectively the interests and abilities of female students in order to provide them an equal opportunity to participate in sports or, if unable to demonstrate current compliance, submit a detailed plan to OCR to accommodate effectively the interests and abilities of female students in its athletics program over the next three academic years. The plan must include a description of interim steps that the university will take during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years to increase athletic participation opportunities for women.   
"With respect to scholarships, by Sept. 1, Butler must also demonstrate that during the 2011-2012 school year equal opportunities are being provided in awarding athletic scholarships to male and female athletes.  Or, if the university is unable to demonstrate this, it must submit a detailed plan to ensure that by the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year, Butler is in full compliance with its Title IX obligation to provide athletic scholarships in a non-discriminatory manner." 
And then the disclaimer:
"The agreement makes clear that OCR does not require or encourage the elimination of any university athletic teams and that it is seeking action from the university that does not involve the elimination of athletic opportunities. The agreement also states that nothing in the agreement requires Butler to cut the amounts of athletic scholarships it offers to either sex, and that any such cuts are discouraged."
Of course, statements like that are used as proof to show schools are not forced to cut men's teams. But we all know that while the OCR, DOE, activists, et. al. say men's cuts aren't required, it's the policies they champion that are causing schools to do it. So let's regroup on September 1, or whenever Butler University announces its action plan, and see how they restructure its athletics department. The winning (but not desired) bet? Men's cuts.

*Update: There's also this.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

What's Leading Wrestling's Future?

In a Cleveland Plain Dealer article titled, "Women may hold key to future of wrestling: Olympics Watch", reporter Tim Warsinskey asks: "Can women save wrestling?"

An alternative way to understand the current wrestling landscape is: "What caused the demise of the sport's teams?" and subsequently, "What is the most effective, far-reaching  prescription to negate the root of the problem?"

Therein lies our two-part answer: Title IX enforcement via proportionality and gender quotas as the cause, and Title IX reform as a way to correct the current path.

Warsinskey acknowledges that Title IX implementation is responsible for cutting wrestling teams, but he fails to paint the whole picture. He writes, "For decades, wrestling coaches and fans cursed Title IX because it put collegiate men's programs on the chopping block in the name of gender equity. In order to close the gap between men's and women's scholarships, which the federal act requires, many colleges resorted to eliminating men's wrestling."

The wrestling community didn't "curse" Title IX because it intended to create equal opportunities for both men and women. Rather understandably, it has expressed extreme disappointment that the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' three-part test has incentivized schools to rely on proportionality for compliance. The only way to achieve proportionate numbers is the use of gender quotas. They dictate how many girls and how many boys are allowed to play sports in a given school, and if the numbers don't match, say goodbye to men's sports (women's sports are also casualties). As wrestlers know all too well, their sport is a popular choice to cut.

The American Sports Council has repeatedly questioned whether we can continue to accept a situation in which so many opportunities in various sports are offered as an either/or basis. Are we really offering equal opportunities to both genders if teams are cut solely on the basis of gender? Can we really sustain sports with our current enforcement methods?

The answer to all of the above is resoundingly no.

Instead of calling for reform, Warsinskey wishfully believes that "In the long run, women could play an important role in the sport's hoped-for rejuvenation, but that day remains a long way off. It's not a sprint to the finish. It's an ultramarathon."

There is no question that the growth of female wrestlers or females who are interested in eventually taking up the sport is exciting, encouraging and an enormously positive development. No one or nothing should impede them from competing and excelling at wrestling if that's what they choose to pursue.

But the more wrestlers, the better; that philosophy includes men, too. Wrestling as a whole will not bounce back until gender quotas are kicked out of athletics and proportionality is no longer the standard for measuring whether equal opportunities (not equal outcomes) exist. Once that happens, we will see a growth in the number of wrestling teams.

There are hundreds of thousands of boys competing at all ages who want the chance to wrestle in college and for those that dream big, in the Olympics. Unfortunately, the endless cuts to men's wrestling programs are quite dissuasive and interfere with their plans. We must change how we look at and meet Title IX requirements (not just for wrestling, but for sports and society in general). That's the only way we're going to see the type of problems facing wrestlers disappear.