Thesis: Because of equal treatment with expense funding, Title IX is setting Women’s College Basketball to be inefficient and may ultimately lead to its failure.
The NCAA Women’s College Basketball national championship game was held last night, and to almost no one’s surprise, the University of Connecticut Huskies took home the trophy. And, while just the night before myself and my roommates sat engaged in the Men’s College Basketball national championship game, we did not tune into the Women’s game for even a single moment of the action. And this story is not just unique to my situation: Americans across the country have expressed great interest in the men’s tournament while failing to pay attention to the women’s game. Clearly the two games are not on the same footing for perceived entertainment value from viewers. However, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are required to be treated equally under university funding. Because of this equal treatment, Title IX is setting Women’s College Basketball to fail.
The law statute of Title IX is simply defined as “a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.” While this statute applies to many different areas of educational funding, the one that receives the most public spotlight and debate is the section under sports equality. While not without its fair share of political controversy, Title IX seems to be improving women’s participation in sports. The results as found by the Feminist Majority Foundation show:
Fifty-five percent of the “post-Title IX” generation participated in high school sports, compared to 36% of the “pre-Title IX” generation. Because of Title IX, more women have received athletic scholarships and thus the opportunity for higher education than would have been possible otherwise.”
Because there are significant benefits to those who play sports, namely health benefits and the possibility for subsidized higher education, it seems fair to argue that the advancement of Title IX has had a positive benefit for women.
I do not deny that Title IX has significant benefits for gender equality in education, but from a business execution standpoint, Title IX is setting Women’s college athletics for failure. This idea was recently highlighted by Kate Fagan, former women’s college basketball player and current ESPN W contributor, in the FiveThirtyEight Hot TakeDown podcast:
The NCAA Women’s Basketball loses the most amount of money of any NCAA championship at $8 million. They don’t want that designation and they shouldn’t have it considering the amount of money that ESPN pays to broadcast the tournament and other factors. But at the end of the day, as they [people inside women’s basketball] say, they have golden handcuffs.
The podcasters point to specific areas such as travel budgets that show that as men’s basketball take entire charter jets to different tournament locations. While the men’s sports teams budgets may be able to handle this “luxury”, Title IX also requires the women’s teams to take charter jets, which the podcasters specify is something that is not necessary. Because of this imposed gender equity, the women’s game is forced to continue to take losses and continue to be subsidized by the men’s game, something that does not make good business sense. From a pure business standpoint, allowing the women’s game to cut unnecessary expenses can potentially make them profitable and continue to stand alone as its own sport. This would still allow women athletes to continue to receive the benefits of sports as described above, while making the NCAA more economically efficient.
While it may be difficult, both politically and socially, to garner support to reform, offering solutions that balance the spirit of the Title IX law and economic efficiency can appease both sides of the debate. The intention of Title IX was to promote equal educational opportunities for both genders, something that can still be achieved through an analysis of what is actually “necessary” for sports programs. Returning to the example of travel budgets, analyzing both the men’s and women’s teams needs for travel arrangements (ie. team size, time between competitions, distance traveled, etc) can create a fair allocation of expense budgets. If it determined that men’s teams need such “luxuries” and women’s teams do not, then women’s teams should not be (golden) handcuffed into such unnecessary, inefficient expenses.