Two complicated issues plaguing collegiate sports could use each other to solve both problems.
Is it easy? No. Will athletic departments be willing to compromise? Probably not.
Athletic departments have become such independent entities, ideas of "pay for play" are actually now being seriously lobbied for, despite it being impossible. The NCAA would really need to flex its muscles to make this possible.
Title IX, in short, was enacted in 1972 to ensure there was no sexual discrimination in educational institutions which receive federal funding. There is no mention of sports, but Title IX's most public function revolves around athletics.
Rarely is a school Title IX compliant, but due to a flawed three-pronged test, less popular men's college sports have suffered unjustly.
The three-pronged test to check Title IX compliance is as followed:
- A school must provide athletic opportunities substantially proportionate to the ratio of male-to-female students enrolled in the institution.
- If the first is not met, there must be a history and continuing practice of program expansion responding to the interest of the underrepresented sex.
- If the second is not met, the interest and abilities of the underrepresented sex must be fully accommodated.
The easy solution for non-Title IX compliant schools is to cash in on No. 2 by cutting men's sports, which just cost the athletic department money, not making any. There is only a handful of college football teams turning a profit year after year, and the same can be said about men's basketball teams. It is uncommon for any women's sports to turn a profit.
Wrestling, men's tennis, and men's gymnastics suffer the most, and the athletic departments win all the way around. They remain safe and cut some costs at the same time. Schools will often expand women's programs at the same time, but don't end up spending more money when it's all said and done.
It's unfortunate what has happened to the lesser men's collegiate athletics, and the solution is right in front of everyone's face, but it's such an unpopular decision, nobody has the grapefruits to make it happen.
Most major Division I schools (the Patriot and Ivy Leagues are the only Football Championship Subdivision conferences with non-scholarship football) offer 85 football scholarships.
Do the math. Guys who never see the light of day on a football field in their four, five, or six years of college are on free rides for football, while the star of the women's tennis team, who has a legitimate 4.0 grade point average might have a partial athletic scholarship or an academic scholarship if she's earned it.
This is where things get murky. I try my best to stay away from the BCS controversy because there is no simple solution—if there is one at all.
ESPN's contract with the BCS starts in 2011 and runs until 2014, when the Rose Bowl's contract with ABC (also owned by Disney) runs out.
In terms of Title IX, prong one of the three-pronged test needs to be reinforced as the ultimate goal. The second and third prongs are acceptable for the meantime, but there needs to be full compliance for this to be effective.
The NCAA should look into either amending the act to specify in terms of athletics, or enacting its own rule to complement Title IX so all athletes can prosper. Rather than requiring overall equal proportions, it should just be specified towards scholarships.
Gradually through this time, major conference schools should be forced to transfer several football scholarships per year to either women's sports or other men's sports if the school is already compliant.
There is absolutely no need for 85 scholarships, and with the newly amended Title IX just proposed, teams would still be able to have something sick like 105 players on the sideline. Also, men's sports which don't make money won't have to continue to suffer.
By the time the ESPN/BCS contract runs out in 2014, football teams should be down to 50-60 scholarships per football team. This would encourage top-tier players to head to non-BCS conference teams in search of a scholarship, thus increasing parity.
The BCS and NCAA would have no choice but to either expand BCS conferences to
include many more, or to consider some sort of playoff.
This isn't a war on college football. I'm a fan of a major conference team. I just believe amidst the whole BCS controversy, the struggle for women's athletics is a much greater issue, and is being overlooked.
The NCAA's core purpose is "to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable, and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount."
It's not about money, or so they say. Athletic departments will be suffering even more now due to economic issues, which should be even more motivation to look into change.
It's time to step up to the plate.