Title IX about 'increasing opportunities for men and women'

By Kerry Colligan

Griffin at the NCAA Tourney last week"Title IX does not mean decreasing opportunities for men," Peggy Bradley-Doppes, senior associate director of intercollegiate athletics, says. "It's about increasing opportunities for men and women. It is not a women's issue or a women's problem. It is a university concern and it needs to be embraced."

In 1972 Congress passed the Educational Amendments Act. Title IX of that law prohibits gender-based discrimination in federally-funded educational programs, including athletics. In effect, Title IX mandates equal opportunity to participate, and equal access to resources. At the U-M, participation among female undergraduates reached 45 percent (compared to 50 percent for males) in 1996-97 with a budget of slightly more than $4.7 million for operating expenses, recruiting and financial aid.

While the budget is increasing for women's sports teams at the U-M, it lags behind the $6.7 million spent on men's teams. Recruiting expenses show the greatest disparity; the $179,000 budgeted for recruiting in women's athletics is only 26 percent of the overall recruiting budget.

Despite the three-to-one ratio, women's basketball Head Coach Sue Guevara says focusing on the disparity misses the point. "I don't concern myself with how [my recruiting budget] compares to the men's teams because I don't compete with them. I look at how it compares with Iowa, Ohio State, Tennessee or some others I compete with. My budget is very adequate to compete in the Big Ten."

Allotment of scholarships compounds budgeting differentials. "There are inherent disproportionalities in the allotment of NCAA scholarships," says Bradley-Doppes. "We offer the maximum number of scholarships for women's sports [under NCAA rules]."

Even so, there are ongoing discussions on scholarships. "People look at the number of scholarships allotted in the different sports and scratch their heads," she adds. Women's basketball has a squad of 15 and 15 scholarships; crew has a squad of 70 and only 20 scholarships. "I believe what you're going to see is increased scholarships, increased travel squads and participation, and more women's programs added."

This summer, an athletics planning committee intends to present a feasibility study on women's ice hockey to Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tom Goss. While the study does not guarantee the sport will eventually be added, it does signal a concrete commitment to women's athletics, Bradley-Doppes says. "We've made great strides. We have concrete examples in the construction of the soccer and field hockey fields. And, we are starting construction on a crew boat house."

While budgeting and scholarships influence the number of opportunities available, external factors should not be discounted. The success of many women's teams in the Olympic Games has increased visibility for some sports, Bradley-Doppes says. The gold medal in women's fast pitch softball, the development of field hockey, and the explosion of women's gymnastics in recent years spell increased participation at the collegiate level.

"People are now seeing that there are a lot of opportunities and they are being embraced. Many women are looking at playing professional volleyball in Europe, or on the pro beach tour here. These [leagues] have a tremendous grassroots effect on participation.

"Looking at Title IX as something you have to do is misleading," says Bradley-Doppes. "For us, it is something we want to do. It's an ongoing process, making sure the sports we have present the best opportunities, and best represent Michigan."

U-M's 308 women athletes part of nationwide boom

Since Title IX took effect in 1972, women's athletics has witnessed tremendous growth in participation, scholarships and budgets. The U-M's 308 female student-athletes (1996-97) represent a portion of the nationwide boom. And for the U-M, the commitment is paying dividends on the field. Several of the women's teams have enjoyed both regional and national success in recent years.

Sue Guevara, head coach of women's basketball and Big Ten Coach of the Year, took her team to the NCAA tournament in March. For the fourth consecutive season, the softball team will play in the Women's College World Series. Coach Carol Hutchins' team is 55-5, and the number three seed in the country. The women's soccer team won the Big Ten championship this year. In its second varsity season, the crew team was rated in the top five nationally. And the swimming and diving, cross country and gymnastics teams all finished second at their respective NCAA championships in 1995.

The U-M began the 1997-98 academic year with 23 varsity sports teams, 12 of which are women's teams. In 1973, the University fielded six women's varsity sport teams: tennis, swimming and diving, basketball, field hockey, volleyball and synchronized swimming. By 1980, programs had been added in gymnastics, track and field, softball, golf and cross country. Soccer and crew round out the list. (Synchronized swimming became a club sport in the 1982-83 season.)