Delaware Track & Field Case Provides Golden Opportunity for Title IX Compliance Reform
In January, the University of Delaware issued a press release that has unfortunately, been all too common at smaller schools all over the country. They announced they were cutting a non-revenue men's athletics program - in this case, men's cross country and track and field - due to fiscal and Title IX compliance concerns.
What was different this time was that the co-captain of the hundred year-old team, Corey Wall, decided to file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights. It cited reverse gender discrimination, and suggested that the enforcement of Title IX was, in reality, taking them away from men "against the spirit of Title IX."
Truer words have never been spoken.
The wording of the actual Title IX law, which states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," has never been the problem.
It has been the narrow definition of that law of how to be in compliance that has been so fatal to so many non-revenue and low-revenue athletics programs over the last two decades.
In theory, a school can be "in Title IX compliance" using one of three tests. But in practice, only one test - proportionality - is a "safe harbor" against an investigation. In a broad sense, it means if 57% of your student body is female, at least 52% of your "athletics opportunities" need to go to women.
What this test has done, in effect, is have schools required to play a numbers game in order to stay in compliance, with the percentage acting as a quota for women's participation.
For large schools in conferences with huge TV contracts, meeting the quotas generally isn't an issue. Smaller schools like Delaware, though - who spends $31 million on its entire athletic department - generally have to struggle to make the numbers work.
While the target of the proportionality test tends to be giant athletics programs like, say, Texas, it's small schools like Delaware that have to bear the brunt of the costs of compliance. It's meeting the proportionality test that is causing Delaware to drop its historic men's track program, not Title IX.Continued on the next page