California Men’s College Sports Under Assault from NOW

By Glenn Sacks

California State University men’s sports are under assault from feminist organizations who are pursuing a course which both ignores the desires of female college students and victimizes male college athletes. This week’s casualty was California State University Northridge’s (CSUN) 40 year-old football team.

The attack on male CSU athletes began in February of 1993, when the California chapter of the National Organization for Women (Cal-NOW) sued the CSU system for sex discrimination in athletics under federal Title IX legislation. The CSUs were forced to sign a consent decree with Cal-NOW in October of that year, and since then dozens of men’s college teams throughout the state have been eliminated.

The consent decree mandates that CSU schools achieve "gender equity" by bringing the percentage of female to male athletes and the percentage of female to male scholarship funding to within 5% of the percentage of females to males eligible to participate in athletics. It also requires that the female portion of the overall athletic budget be within 10% of the school’s male-female ratio.

On the surface this seems fair, but it in fact discriminates against male college athletes in several ways. For one, the consent decree judges "gender equity" by male-female enrollment ratios instead of student interest levels. Yet numerous studies demonstrate that female college students, in general, are less interested in competitive team athletics than males are, and are more interested in personal fitness activities (jogging, aerobics, etc.), than males. Even at all-women’s colleges the percentage of females participating in and expressing an interest in participating in team sports would not be enough to achieve the consent decree’s gender balance at most co-ed schools.

At the same time, some female athletic activities, such as drill team and cheerleading, are not counted as athletics. Thus a male football player and a female drill team captain both practice with their teams, do physically demanding training, and perform every weekend, but only the football player is considered an athlete, and only the money spent on his activity is considered for gender equity.

In addition, gender equity calculations unfairly count a sport’s athletes, scholarships, and budget without considering its money-making ability. While most male sports and almost all female sports are not profitable, some, such as football and men’s basketball, often bring schools large revenues—revenues which frequently benefit women’s athletic programs but which are completely invisible in gender equity calculations.

The attempts by CSUN and other CSU schools to comply with the decree are made even more difficult by the fact that women have come to dominate the enrollment on most college campuses, leading 57% to 43% nationwide and 61% to 39% at CSUN.

Cal-NOW’s consent decree sets the gender equity bar so high that even CSUN, which has done a tremendous job in building up its female athletic programs since 1993, has been unable to reach it and is considered to be out of compliance. From 1993 to 1998 CSUN tripled its women’s athletic budget and more than tripled its female scholarship budget, while its male scholarship budget has been reduced. Its percentage of female athletes to male athletes has risen 50%. It has added three women’s sports and cut four men’s teams (though community activists won a reprieve for the men’s sports by securing outside funding). CSUN’s percentage of female athletes is over 50%, and its women’s athletic budget and women’s scholarship funding are just under 50%. All three percentages will be pushed far higher by the elimination of football.

CSUN’s expansion of women’s athletics has gone considerably beyond the interest levels expressed by its female students in numerous student surveys. In those surveys women comprise between 35 and 40 percent of those CSUN students expressing an interest in playing college sports. Even in the 1992-1993 school year, before the decree was signed, 40% of CSUN’s athletic budget and scholarship funds were spent on women, and 35% of the school’s 428 student-athletes were women—clearly in line with the interest levels indicated by student surveys.

Certainly CSUN football has many woes unrelated to gender equity calculations, including the lack of a stadium and scant attendance and revenue. However, the leaders of CSUN seem like the factory owner who invests little in his plant for 30 years and then closes it down because it is "outdated" and "unprofitable." Certainly the decision of former CSUN President Blenda Wilson to build a new biotechnology center on the site of the football field without even considering where the team would play in the future doesn’t give the impression that CSUN was committed to football.

But Cal-NOW shares responsibility, as do feminist organizations nationwide, who have used similar tactics which have been largely responsible for the elimination of 20,000 male athletic positions over the past decade.

When Title IX was passed in 1972 to bar sex discrimination in programs receiving federal funds, it was a huge and laudable gain for the feminist movement. It was never meant to be a sword wielded to cut down the dreams and hopes of 19 year-old boys.

  • Los Angeles Daily Journal
  • San Francisco Daily Journal