Fact: Thanks to Title IX, participation in college women’s golf is at an all-time high.
Fiction: Thanks to Title IX, a high school girl who occasionally breaks 80 can bank on being offered a full golf scholarship.
Title IX is the 30-year-old gender equity law that’s supposed to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to participate in college sports. In that regard, it has succeeded famously.
“It (Title IX) certainly has given a lot of young ladies opportunities,” said longtime Ohio State women’s golf coach Therese Hession. “There are so many girls playing now, and I think it’s wonderful.
“When I first started, there were probably 20 good swings out there. Now there are probably only 15 or 20 swings that need some work.”
But achieving equity hasn’t come without cost. Title IX has been the bane of men’s minor, or nonrevenue, sports – including, in some cases, golf.
Critics say the law has had the opposite effect of what was originally intended, and has instead discriminated against men’s athletics. The law’s most controversial component, proportionality, requires colleges to have roughly equal ratios of male and female athletes as they do of male and female students enrolled.
“They (Title IX advocates) can tell you whatever they want, it’s all about the numbers,” said John Means, former University of Minnesota men’s golf coach and director of Simply Common Sense, an organization that disseminates Title IX information.
“The law itself is a good law, but the interpretation is ludicrous.”
Title IX proponents say excessive spending by men’s major sports – namely football – is to blame for the demise of men’s minor sports, not proportionality.
“I’m very concerned with the financial side of athletics,” said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation and one of the nation’s leading Title IX advocates. “This is all about certain people spending too much money.”
There is no doubt Title IX has increased female participation in sports, and in some cases the numbers are staggering.
High school girls’ athletic participation has increased nearly 850 percent since 1972, when only one in 27 high school girls played varsity sports. In 2001, the ratio was one in 21⁄2.
According to an NCAA study on sports participation, 74,299 women were involved in athletics at member schools in 1982, compared with 169,800 men. Today the numbers are 150,916 women, a 103.1 percent increase, and 208,866 men, an increase of 23 percent. (A portion of those numbers can be attributed to new schools joining the NCAA from other governing organizations such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The NAIA saw its membership fall from 467 institutions and 79,773 athletes in 1990-91 to 325 schools and 47,853 athletes in 2000-01.)
Golf is only one small piece of the Title IX pie, but the effect the law has had on the sport is significant. In 1982, 2,963 men and 739 women played Division I golf. In 2001, the numbers were 3,100 men and 1,734 women, increases of 4.6 percent and 134.6 percent, respectively.
The American Junior Golf Association and the International Junior Golf Tour are the proving grounds for aspiring college golfers. Without AJGA or IJGT credentials on the resume, it’s difficult for players to attract attention from college recruiters. Girls’ participation in those organizations has skyrocketed in the last eight years, nearly doubling since the mid-1990s.
Based on an NCAA sports participation study from 1982-2001 (see accompanying chart), there were 590 men’s golf programs – Divisions I, II and III – in the 1981-82 season. The number had risen to 717 in 2000-01, a 21.5 percent increase, although that was a dropoff from the high point of 726 in 1995-96.
For women, there were 125 programs for all divisions in 1981-82, and 402 in 2000-01 – an increase of 221.6 percent. Division I went from 83 to 197 programs during the same period, a 137.3 percent increase. The Golfweek⁄Sagarin College Rankings, which include only Division I schools, listed 211 teams at the end of last season.
One reason women are closing the participation gap on men is because of scholarship opportunities. In both Divisions I and II, women are allowed six scholarships compared with 41⁄2 for men. Division III gives no scholarships and NAIA schools allow five for both men and women.
But just because the NCAA permits schools to offer more scholarships to women doesn’t mean they always do. Many Division II and NAIA schools have financial constraints and do not allow their golf coaches to use the full allotment of scholarships. Division I coaches are reluctant to part with scholarships unless the recruit is truly talented.
Dianne Dailey, who is beginning her 15th season as women’s coach at Wake Forest, said it makes no sense for her to give a scholarship to someone who’s not likely to contribute. Dailey said she would rather hold the money for another year or use the scholarship to attract an international star.
“There are not enough really good players coming out of high school that can be competitive on these teams,” Dailey said. “Coaches go international to find players. Those are the ones who are taking up the scholarships.”
As for the occasional high-70s shooter, there are no guarantees. She probably will have to gain more consistency to attract scholarship offers from Division I schools.
“If you break 80, you have an excellent chance of getting a scholarship somewhere, probably more at a Division II school,” Dailey said. “If you break 80, you’re going to go somewhere. Not break 80 one time, but a stroke average of 80.”
But the operative word with Title IX is “opportunity,” not “scholarship.” If a girl wants to be on a college golf team, she should be able to find one.
Take Eastern Washington University, for example. Marc Hughes was the men’s and women’s golf coach at Eastern Washington until school officials notified him in May that the men’s program would be eliminated at the end of the 2002 season, saving the university $40,000.
Then Hughes was told that he must add six women to his squad to help Eastern Washington satisfy its Title IX proportionality numbers. His dilemma exemplifies the pros and cons of Title IX.
It was difficult enough for Hughes to field a competitive six-member team at the small Cheney, Wash., school. Forcing him to accommodate 12 players will eat up some of the money saved by dropping the men’s team.
Adding six women will cost the school more money because Eastern Washington does not have its own practice facilities, meaning Hughes must pay additional green fees every time the team practices. He also is required to provide team members with uniforms, bags, golf balls, etc.
“The amount of talent that is out here on the women’s side is a huge improvement and that’s completely a result of Title IX,” Hughes said. “I just think the original idea (of Title IX), which was a good one, has been overcooked. The problem is that it’s too easy for athletic departments to get rid of men’s golf teams. A lot of athletic directors can use the dropping of men’s golf to show that they’re moving their university into complying with Title IX legislation.
“The government likes to say that it’s up to each athletic department to make these decisions. Title IX is making it necessary for each school to make that decision.”
After Eastern Washington and Portland State announced they would drop their men’s teams after last season, the Big Sky Conference – left with only three schools that field men’s golf teams – said it would no longer recognize men’s golf as a core sport. That easily could lead other conference members to also eliminate the sport.
“Why would you (eliminate) men’s golf as a core sport if there wasn’t a piece of legislation to tell you to do so?” Hughes said.
On the positive side, Columbia University, Old Dominion and the University of Virginia all will add women’s golf teams in 2003-04.
The Big East Conference plans to recognize women’s golf as its 23rd sport starting next year, with six schools participating: Boston College, Georgetown, Miami, Notre Dame, Rutgers and St. Johns. (Miami is the highest-profile school without a men’s team. It was dissolved in 1992, partially for Title IX reasons.)
Although men’s golf programs – which have relatively low costs and fewer scholarships when compared with other sports – have been affected over the last decade, wrestling has been hit the hardest by schools’ attempts to meet proportionality standards. Eliminating a wrestling program can reduce the number of male athletes at a school by 25 to 30.
In 1982, there were 363 wrestling programs in Divisions I, II and III, including 146 in Division I. By 2001, the numbers had dwindled to 225 programs, 87 in Division I.
Today, there are nearly 2,000 fewer college wrestlers than 20 years earlier, a dropoff that is no doubt a byproduct of Title IX. Such numbers are something even Title IX’s staunchest backers don’t like to see.
“There is no reason why young men should be deprived just to make the numbers meet,” said Ohio State’s Hession. “That’s the part I feel really bad for, those minor sports that get trimmed back. I’m not one that likes to add bodies just to meet numbers, especially if they’re not competitive.”
The NCAA says it is not responsible for the downsizing of athletic programs – golf, wrestling or otherwise – and says those decisions are made by individual schools.
“It’s an institution’s choice (to eliminate athletic programs), and I’m not sure the general public is aware of that,” said Rosie Stallman, the NCAA’s director of education outreach. She is primarily responsible for Title IX education. “We hate to see any sports dropped or eliminated, but sometimes institutions make difficult decisions.”
Some of those decisions have changed the face of college golf.
During the last 19 years, the number of female college athletes grew 5.43 percent per year, while women golfers increased an average of 7.08 percent per year and women’s golf programs were added at a rate of 11.66 percent per year. The number of NCAA women golfers grew more each year (7.08 percent) than the number of men golfers did in 19 years (4.6 percent) combined.
During the same 19-year span, the number of male athletes increased an average of 1.21 percent per year. Male golfers increased .242 percent each year and men’s golf programs were added at an average rate of 1.13 percent per year. (Again, some of the above numbers – male and female – can be attributed to new schools joining the NCAA.)
“I’m definitely pleased with the progress over the last 30 years,” said Lopiano of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “But there is still work to be done.” The WSF claims that 80 percent of the nation’s colleges still have not complied with some parts of Title IX.
Means, whose daughter Deborah is a junior on Wake Forest’s golf team, agrees with Lopiano that much remains to be done, although from a completely opposite viewpoint.
“The law has been poorly regulated.” Means said. “It’s great that our daughters are getting the opportunities, but it’s all coming at the expense of our sons.”