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The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Rethinking How Title IX Is Applied

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As more young women go to college, funding for some men's sports will be reduced to comply with Title IX. That's the federal law requiring schools to offer athletic programs in proportion to gender population. Should the law be tweaked to address inconsistencies?

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The Kentucky Derby is one rite of spring. Commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about another.

FRANK DEFORD: College commencement time may be nearing, but so, too, the all too usual termination ceremonies - universities announcing what additional men's sports must be dropped to stay in compliance with Title IX. Basically, Title IX says schools must offer athletic programs in proportion with their gender population.

This was reasonably easy to accommodate three decades ago when, of all people, President Nixon signed Title IX into law. At that time, you see, 55 percent of college students were male. Today, though, about 58 percent of college students are female. Very soon a full three out of five collegians will be women. Can two-thirds be far behind?

Take James Madison University in Virginia as a typical example. As USA Today reports, 61 percent of the student body is what we'd like to call distaff. So JMU is axing ten sports teams, seven of them men's. But that sort of thing is happening everywhere, and as the gender imbalance inexorably increases so will the accelerated elimination of men's sports.

Moreover, because so many American boys devote themselves to sports starting in grade in school, working toward that athletic scholarship, neglecting classroom work, the problem can only increase. That is, because more boys concentrate on sports, more girls do better academically; so more women get into college and so there are fewer men's teams with fewer positions for the boys devoting themselves to sports. And hence, even more girls qualify for college, thus fewer men's sports. And so on and so on until eventually only a handful of renaissance men will be populating the few remaining male sports teams.

The current situation is fair. It is not the fault of girls that boys won't work hard in the classroom. However, it is really not healthy that soon enough most colleges will only have men's teams in football and basketball, maybe baseball.

There are two simple solutions. First, accepting the so-called revenue sports -football and basketball - get rid of athletic scholarships, end that inequity that gives special dispensation to sports over the arts. And with the money saved from supporting many unqualified students whole teams could be financed.

Or get Congress to declare that football is legally in a different category. Realistically, it is. Take it out of the department of athletics and put it in the new department of entertainment with a department of amusing the alumni. Football is twice the problem: It has no female analog and it is by far the costliest sport. Remove it from the Title IX equation and once again young men could swim and run and jump and play tennis and lacrosse just like young women.

Another solution would be to get boys to study harder when they're growing up, but I don't have the foggiest idea how to do anything about that.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Frank Deford, senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. He gives us his commentary each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. With Renee Montagne, I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford