Title IX in Full Force: Quinnipiac Forced To Keep Women's Volleyball

David SanchiricoCorrespondent IMay 24, 2009

HAMDEN, CT - FEBRUARY 20: The Quinnipiac Bobcats mascot rallies the crowd at the Yale Bulldogs game on February 20, 2009 at the TD Banknorth Sports Complex in Hamden, Conneticute. Yale and Quinnipiac tied 3-3. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The current economic crisis is taking no holds barred, especially on schools of higher learning.

With numerous colleges and universities making cuts on athletic departments to offset the deficits they face, more and more college teams are experiencing their funerals.

Schools like the University of Vermont are hurting so much that they are forced to cut programs, like the Catamounts baseball program that was introduced in the 19th century, that were staples of their universities. 

Schools are forced to make these eliminations while following Title IX guidelines, which call for an equal amount of men's and women's sports teams per school.

But is Title IX really preserving equality in athletic departments anymore?

I ask this question because of a situation at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT.

The private school was recently forced to cut women's volleyball, men's golf, and men's outdoor track to save money. At the same time, Quinnipiac announced the promotion of cheerleading to varsity status to offset the loss of women's volleyball.

These cuts crushed dreams, eliminated scholarships for athletes, and ended some playing careers.

In comes Robin Sparks, head coach of the Quinnipiac's women's volleyball team. Distraught and disturbed by the elimination of her team, Sparks, along with several members of the team that went 5-30 last season, revealed new information that had a federal judge questioning Quinnipiac's commitment to providing equal opportunity towards female students.

They said that the school manipulated the rosters of teams to make them appear in line with the general student population, which is comprised of 62 percent females.

According to Sparks, Quinnipiac dropped athletes from the rosters of some men's teams just before the start of the season to look gender balanced in reports sent to the U.S. Department of Education. These athletes were placed back on their respective rosters days later.

The goal of releasing this information was to get the team reinstated. It succeeded.

On Friday, Judge Stefan R. Underhill ordered the school to reinstate the women's volleyball program. Not only did Underhill force the school to rehire the coaches and to continue funding the program, but he prohibited the school from reducing financial support for any of the school's women's teams.

According to Underhill, Quinnipiac was "not providing genuine athletic participation opportunities in substantial proportionality to the gender composition of its full-time undergraduate enrollment."



Since this is a touchy subject, I will start by saying I am for the equality of opportunities for both sexes.

This was the first time I heard of the gender composition part of Title IX. I did not know that the percentage of athletes at a school should correlate with the general student body. 

On the surface it makes sense, but I have a tough time imagining supporters of Title IX allowing a predominately male school like the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which is 69 percent male, fill their rosters with more male athletes than female competitors.

By the way, RIT offers 12 varsity sports for women students and just 11 for their male counterparts.

Obviously the supporters had no remorse for the male athletes whose playing careers were ended. Male golf and track athletes watched their two sports eliminated while their school added another varsity sport for women. I'm sure that sends the right message to the other male athletes at Quinnipiac.

What was originally about civil rights movement for women has become a mess full of double standards. How come an athletic program has to have equal amount of women programs as men's, but can also have a majority of women's varsity sports?

Though Quinnipiac did break a rule, who knows what the stipulations were. Maybe the stipulations of Title IX forced the team to list a limited number of athletes per male team.

Regardless of these debatable accusations, it looks like the only teams that will be forced to cease operations are the ones with Y chromosome athletes.

As for Quinnipiac? They were fit to save more than $70,000 from eliminating the operating expenses committed towards women's volleyball. Add this number to the salaries of volleyball coaches that would have gone back to the university and you have a big number that still needs to be cut.

Maybe they will look at academic departments. Maybe the School of Law will be subjected to cuts.

Or maybe another male sports team will see the end.