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Valley Perspective

Title IX Not to Blame for CSUN Cutting Men's Sports

A history of unacknowledged inequity is the real culprit

June 08, 1997

If, as is likely, Cal State Northridge begins axing men's sports programs in the coming days and weeks, there will no doubt be a lot of mumbling and grumbling on campus and in the community about Title IX, the 1972 federal law requiring gender-equity in, among other things, intercollegiate athletics. But the expected loss of CSUN's respected baseball and volleyball programs--not to mention golf, soccer and swimming--must not be blamed on Title IX, a sensible piece of legislation that has boosted female sports participation nationwide.

Instead, a confluence of factors--some dating to before today's athletes were even born--have forced CSUN to follow the sad example of schools across the state and country and make some tough choices. These factors include budgetary constraints, changing student populations and Title IX's strange odyssey through the courts. But the problems are compounded at CSUN--and the other Cal State campuses--because of a 1993 court settlement that requires schools within the Cal State system to achieve near-perfect "proportionality" by the 1998-99 school year. That means the school's varsity athletes need to represent the school's overall student population in terms of gender.

Many other schools are able to work toward proportionality by slowly adding women's sports each season, gradually increasing the ratio of women to men. But because of the settlement, Cal State schools like CSUN face a tight deadline. And no money to meet it. CSUN's athletic department ran a $700,000 deficit last year. Unable to add women's sports, the school cut men's. The logical choice would have been to ax football, which accounts for 85 of the school's 400 varsity athletes. But doing so would knock the school out of its conference, which, in turn, would disrupt other sports.

Athletic directors and college presidents across the country have been slow to recognize the value of women's sports and to promote and encourage them. This is what led to Title IX in the first place. But even after Title IX became law, schools were able to get away with doing almost nothing for many years. Rather than doing the right thing--setting to work on a strong set of women's teams--many athletic directors and administrators throughout the Cal State system did the bare minimum. The result: lawsuits that bumped them into an accelerated schedule.

Meeting that schedule means drastic action--as CSUN is finding out. Simply adding more women's sports is a luxury few schools can afford. So the sins of yesterday are coming due today and the real losers are athletes of both genders. This is the bitter part of a law that has had otherwise beneficial effects on high school and college campuses nationwide. But it's not the law that is to blame. It is the folks who winked and looked away when they had a chance to make a real difference.

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