Time For A Change of Title IX

Guest editorial by Kevin Weissman

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 4. IT is time for a change. Specifically, Title IX needs to be changed. Unfortunately, the wrongs that Title IX set out to right 38 years ago are now being inflicted on our sons. While this particular forum is focused on swimming, you could easily substitute many other sports that are suffering the same fate.

The factual evidence is quite compelling. I believe the reason there is not a greater outcry, is that people are just not aware of the situation. But the time has come for some righteous indignation about what is happening to our sons.

The standards are not equitable. Male high school swimmers need to perform at an elite level if they want to be considered for a college swimming scholarship. Girls, on the other hand, can still receive a scholarship to an NCAA Division I program even if they don't have a Junior National cut.

The opportunity to participate also is not equitable. According to the NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, for the 2008/2009 academic year, there were 510 women's Swimming and Diving teams and 393 men's teams. There were a total of 11,626 women, compared with 8,868 men on NCAA Swimming and Diving teams. At the Division I level, there were 5,298 women (up 143 from 2007/2008) and 2,823 men (down 847 from 2007/2008).

The opportunity for scholarships is not equitable. There are 249 NCAA swim teams offering scholarships to women, and 192 offering scholarships to men. The NCAA allows each D1 swimming program to offer 14 scholarships for women and 9.9 for men. Overall, there are 3,108.4 NCAA swimming scholarships for women and 1,810.8 scholarships for men. Similarly, the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) colleges with swimming programs offer 19 scholarships for women and 16 for men. (Sources: Athleticscholorships.net and Collegesportsscholarships.com)

Swimming is growing for every age group from Novice to Masters, with the exception of the men's collegiate level. It is clear that Title IX has hurt men's swimming. By the way, hurting men's collegiate swimming also hurts U.S. Olympic swimming. Again, you could insert many other collegiate and Olympic sports that are being similarly impacted.

When it was passed, 38 years ago, Title IX was overdue, and right for the time. There have been many great strides since then, and in areas there is still work to be done. However, times have changed, and it is time for Title IX to change.

There are those who will cry "Never!" They will not entertain the slightest possibility that the law should be amended. I would point out that even the Constitution has been amended (27 times). To some extent, this is about power. And those in power do not share or relinquish it easily.

Those who oppose change attempt to deflect and misdirect the conversation. They say that we should plea our politically-incorrect case to the individual colleges and universities. However, after failing to get individual colleges and universities to do the right thing on their own almost 40 years ago, Title IX was put in place to force the issue. It is cynical to suggest that we should restrict ourselves to the failed tactics of the past, but don't dare consider touching this sacred piece of legislation.

The attempt to divert blame from Title IX to the universities reminds me of the bumper sticker, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Title IX supporters put a law in the hands of universities, but they assume no responsibility for how it is used.

Universities can exacerbate the problem through lazy administration and budget management, or mismanagement. It is possible to comply with Title IX by conducting student-interest surveys, and offering athletic opportunities in proportion to the level of interest of male and female students (the interest is greater amongst males). But, this requires more time and effort, and isn't as easy as just enforcing quotas.

Each year, our college age sons are losing access to universities and scholarships all across America. It's probably too late to make a difference for them. But think of all the novice boys out there, learning their strokes, going to age group meets, usually being beat by their female teammates until at least 12 or so. Who will be their advocate?

I'm just a dad. Not a coach or an attorney. But it wasn't until I viewed this issue as a parent, that it went from something that seemed vaguely unfortunate to something that moved me. All those boys out there have fathers AND mothers who want the best for their sons. They are too important to us, as parents, to let this lay. This is not a gender issue, this is a fairness issue.

For something to gain momentum, it must capture both the hearts and the minds. The facts are obvious. But being right isn't enough. Hopefully, this also connects with you on an emotional level. Maybe you are motivated on behalf of a son, or a brother, or a teammate or boyfriend, or just on behalf of what's right.

My goal is to shed some light, promote a dialogue, and maybe move a few people to say "This doesn't seem right. Why don't we change it?" If you are fired up about this too, I would encourage you to check out the websites for The College Sports Council at SavingSports.org and their member organizations, including the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.

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