Friday, July 23

Judge's Decision Goes Deeper Than Mocking Cheerleading

A recent story getting press is the ruling of a Connecticut Judge telling Quinnipiac University that competitive cheerleading is not a sport. Almost all of the reaction is to the fact a judge was allowed to decree what is and is not a sport. It will be seen as a humorous blurb and invoke discussion on what counts as a sport and what does not. This article is about more than qualifying activities though, it is about the asinine numbers game that is Title IX.

Quinnipiac is a small mid-major school that no doubt lacks the big budgets of the football superpowers. They are doing what they can to survive. Let's take a look at the college sports landscape shall we?

Football is king. It generates the most money and attention for schools, namely the FCS and a few top FBS schools. Men's basketball is also up there, due to the opportunity to get TV and NCAA tournament money. After that, there are a few sports in different patches of the country that generate interest and revenue, but none touch the big 2. The cost of supporting large scale college sports is sky-rocketing, while the economy is struggling. Added to this is the requirements of Title IX. This federal law passed in 1972 which did not even originally pertain to athletics has come to dominate the fate of non-revenue sports. Since the 1990s when the NCAA established distinct guidelines of how schools can comply with the law or lose federal funding collegiate teams have been going the way of the Dodo.

Those distinct guidelines can basically be summarized by proportionality. There are two other ways schools can comply but it has been shown to be nearly impossible to implement them. Proportionality is simplistic (and therefore ill-equipped to handle this matter) in its definition; the proportion of female to male ratio of the student body has to be reflected in the allocation of resources in an athletic department. So if a school is 55% female and 45% male, the athletic department must make sure their expenditures reflect that. For schools with football, which has over 100 males athletes, the only way to make this a reality is to cut non-revenue men's teams. A school must have at least 7 programs to stay division I in their sports, but after that it is fair game.

Over the past 20 years men's collegiate sport programs in anything from soccer, tennis, wrestling, rowing, and even baseball have been wiped out. Even women's teams have been disappearing in favor of other women's sports that are cheaper or help teams comply with Title IX more efficiently. Take women's rowing for example. Once a small sport, it has grown to into one of the biggest female collegiate sports in the country. Why? Numbers. Women's rowing is the biggest counterweight the gender has to football. The roster sizes are larger than other women's sports.

Quinnipiac has 7 men's teams (no football team) and 12 women's teams with competitive cheer and volleyball listed. They tried to eliminate volleyball and install cheerleading because it offered them a cheaper way to comply with an outdated rule. The judge in this case ruled that cheerleading did not fit the criteria to serve the purpose. As much as I love to mock cheerleading this is not what is at the crux of the situation at Quinnipiac. It is the 5,000 pound gorilla that exists in college sports. Gender equity and opportunity in athletics is important, much too important to have an old archaic law like Title IX be the utmost authority on it.

Judge in Conn.: Cheerleading not a college sport [Yahoo]

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