Title IX affects gender balance in BYU sports

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    By CHRISTINE JACKSON

    Gender equality is what it is all about. Title IX was created to bring college athletics to a more equal playing field and has left a slew of controversies and conflicts in its path.

    According to Title IX and Gender Equity Specialist Valerie M. Bonnette, Title IX refers to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

    The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing Title IX and uses a three-part test to determine a university’s compliance.

    A school can comply in one of three ways: achieving equal proportionality in men and women’s sports, demonstrating a history of program expansion for the less-represented sex or demonstrating through a talent and interest survey that each sex is fully accommodated.

    Women’s Athletics Director Elaine Michaelis said BYU was chosen randomly to be checked by the NCAA and has since been working toward compliance with Title IX.

    Among the areas checked are participation, accommodations, scholarships, practice times, media representation and equality of equipment and facilities.

    The Office of Civil Rights checks on BYU each year. As a result, this year BYU added women’s softball and cut men’s wrestling and gymnastics.

    “The sports were cut because of funding, and also the conference is not offering those sports, and national trends for those two sports are really on the decline,” Michaelis said.

    While these actions may bring BYU close to compliance, Michaelis said the proportionality of athletes and number of scholarships are still unequal.

    With a far greater number of men’s scholarships, especially because football has no female counterpart, women have less funding.

    “We have 53 percent of women on campus, so that means 53 percent of that participation should be women. We’re currently right now at 44 percent,” she said. “Per scholarship we have less funding for the women than the men. Without football scholarships the numbers are still slightly under.”

    Most issues concerning equality of facilities have been solved. BYU has redone the women’s locker room and alternated the practice schedules of men’s and women’s teams. For example, the men’s basketball team practices first three times a week while the women do twice a week.

    Another way Michaelis said BYU is complying is by adding to female squads to increase participation while holding the men’s squads to their regular numbers.

    Michaelis said she thinks that by adding softball and dropping wrestling and gymnastics, BYU may be close to the needed numbers. At that point the school will reevaluate its status and possibly consider other sports such as water polo and lacrosse.

    Val Hale, men’s athletics director, said that after dropping men’s gymnastics and wrestling, BYU’s proportionality may be good enough to comply with NCAA standards.

    “We continue to work with the Office of Civil Rights to assess the needs of the campus and our progress toward gender equality,” Hale said.

    Hale said he is pleased with the action taken so far.

    “It’s been wonderful. We’ve added women’s soccer and now softball. We’ve given a lot more young women the opportunity to participate. It’s exciting,” he said. “Our programs have become instantly successful on the national and regional levels.”

    While many players are excited for new opportunities, Title IX has also hindered others.

    Guard Young, a gymnast for the BYU men’s team, is an Olympic hopeful who is disillusioned with the decision to cut men’s teams.

    “It’s a tragedy. It’s not a tragedy for the guys on the team now or the coach, but for the young kids that want to become BYU gymnasts,” he said.

    This season will be the last year to compete at BYU for Young and the rest of the team.

    Young said he will train here in Provo this summer for the Olympics, but after that he does not know where he will go.

    This is also the last year for wrestling, though scholarships will carry through each athlete’s schooling, Young said.

    Other teams, such as men’s soccer and lacrosse, have also suffered as a result of Title IX.

    BYU soccer was cut as a program and made an inter-collegiate sport in 1984. Despite its great success in Division I competition and the strength of the program, men’s soccer remains a club sport.

    “The only thing that’s frustrating about it is that we can’t play against NCAA schools all the time, and we can’t go to the tournament,” said player Chad Sackett. “Half of the players on the team could go anywhere and get a full ride but they’re making the sacrifice because this is where they want to be.”

    Sackett said he thinks Title IX is a good thing.

    “The school treats us really well for what we are, I can’t really complain,” he said.

    Men’s lacrosse has experienced similar frustrations. Dan Murdock plays for the team which has won three of the past four national championships at the club level.

    “It (Title IX) prevents us from attaining our potential as a school sport. It prevents us from funding, from scholarships, and it prevents us from greater recognition in the university and in the NCAA,” Murdock said.

    Without Title IX, however, teams like women’s softball would have less chance of developing into programs. Player Becca Erickson said she had offers from several schools and was glad BYU started the program.

    “It was always a dream — it would be so cool if BYU had a softball team. I’m really glad I could come here and play,” Erickson said.

    Title IX continues to be an issue. BYU is trying to fit NCAA regulations, which have left some with increased opportunities while others remain frustrated.

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