Barnestorming: Why Not Women's College Football?
By Steve Barnes
Get ready to get the torches and pitch forks when you read the next line.
I hate Title IX.
Before you get the voodoo dolls out, please read the next line.
I am all for equal rights for women, but Title IX is not about equality. Is anyone interested now?
Title IX came about in 1972 and in theory is a great thing. At its core, it says that females get the same opportunities as males, especially in sports. I am all for that. I hate that we actually have to have a law to put that into action.
My niece received a great college education by attending school on a softball scholarship. Her mother would have never been afforded that opportunity because she graduated high school in 1971. A generation later, my niece had a great experience, earned her degree and now coaches high school softball herself to help a new generation of girls get the chance to earn a scholarship. Does anyone think I would deny my niece an opportunity like that?
To quote the Al Pacino character in "And Justice For All," when he is speaking before a review board of attorneys, "In theory this is great. In practice, it sucks."
That is Title IX in a nutshell.
There are too many factors to boil gender participation into a simple equation.
First, it is a fact Alabama or Nebraska or Notre Dame draws more fans to campus on a football Saturday than the volleyball, softball and gymnastics team do all season. Second, the number of professional football, basketball and baseball players who give back to their schools after they've left contribute millions of dollars to the schools. Not many former women's fencers write million-dollar checks to their alma maters. Finally, there is a bit of animosity between the genders in athletic departments.
I worked at a college that was investigated by the Office of Civil Rights for violating Title IX. The discrepancy was brought to the attention of the government by the women's basketball coach at the school. The athletic department was moving from the NCAA Division II level to Division I, but in the transition phase had no conference affiliation. Both the men's and women's hoops programs had to scramble to fill out its schedules. Each got a major college offer to play a game. The women's coach had her request denied by the athletic director, the men's was accepted. The women's coach called the Feds.
By the way, the men's team signed to play an nearby team. The players would go to class that day, eat lunch, hop on the bus for a two-hour drive, play the game, come home and make the 8 a.m. class the next day. The women's team had their request denied. They wanted to play at Hawaii. The men's team was going to get a nice paycheck for a small cost for the trip. The women going to Hawaii put its program in the red for years and the players missed a week of classes.
The school was forced to let the women go to Hawaii. Not only that, they were also forced to add other women's sports because the school had football. That still put the university out of balance in the Title IX equation. Other women's sports had to be added. At some schools, to be in compliance, some men's sports have to be cut.
Is that equal? I don't think so.
One school added some women's sports, like lightweight crew — that is rowing for women weighing less than 125 pounds, and had to cut some men's sports because of the balance of Title IX.
It appears the NCAA could be on its way out of business. That is fine with me because I have long thought 'NCAA' was an acronym for 'No Clue At All.' If the NCAA goes, the Title IX should too.
If football was out of the picture, I think most schools would be in compliance. Take a snapshot look at it. In the winter, the big sport on campus is basketball. The men's team and women's team are basically equal. In the spring, it is baseball and softball. Baseball has more players because it needs more pitchers. A softball pitcher uses a natural motion and can throw almost every day. A baseball pitcher has to rest for at least three days between starts. They have the same facilities and coaching staffs, just a few more players in baseball for health and safety reasons.
In the fall, it is football and volleyball. There is no possible way to make them equal. If one counts graduate assistants, there are more football coaches than volleyball players. Also, football has a stadium. Most have two practice fields and even at the lowest levels in college, football teams have four times the scholarships. How can that ever be equal?
I have an idea. Why not women's college football?
If Title IX is for gender equity, let's have equity.
Can anyone see a great day when ESPN's College Gameday is in Auburn for a game between the Tigresses and the Mississippi State Bit — well, even though that name is gender correct, perhaps we should call them the Lady Bulldogs. But "Lady" anything is offensive, so let's head North so Auburn can take on the Ole Miss Rebelettes.
The Rebelettes can be led by Elisha Manning. Auburn by Patricia Sullivan. Who knows, one can possibly win the HeisWOman Trophy.
It would be a great game with the winner advancing to the postseason. Think of the marketing possibilities. I would definitely block time to watch the Summer's Eve Bowl.
If anyone thinks women's college football is silly, they are probably right. But so is putting college football in the Title IX equation.