Sunday, September 22, 2002
Female chauvinistic pig alert: Today's New York Times has an excellent article on the fact that women don't want men to play sports. Well, not exactly, but that's the effect of it.
As much as some militant feminists would like to deny it, there are definite differences between men and women. One of those differences -- a higher percentage of men are interested in watching, and playing, sports. It's a simple fact of life. But it's something that women won't accept, so along came Title IX, which, though not designed to, has has the effect of prohibiting men from playing college sports.
Male walk-ons have essentially become an unwanted luxury. Most colleges work hard to maintain a roughly equal number of male and female participants - whether on scholarship or not - in athletics. They do so to comply with Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded institutions.
But their pursuit of that goal is entangled by budget limitations and the addition of thousands of new teams for women over the past decade. This delicate balancing act is disrupted each year when three to four times more men than women arrive unsolicited for the first week of practices, dozens of coaches and administrators said in interviews.
Athletic department administrators have generally responded to the disparity by telling coaches of women's teams to keep as many walk-ons as they can, even encouraging them to scour campuses for more candidates to fill their rosters. The coaches of many men's teams, meanwhile, have been assigned a reduced, fixed roster limit, a number that is quickly filled by established recruits. Often, there is no room for walk-ons.
Aren't these the same type of people that usually ask us to look for "root causes?"
Well, the Times does a good job of telling both sides of the story. After talking to and quoting dozens of coaches and administrators who lament the fact that they can't take walk-ons for fear that Gloria Steinem will come calling with a lawsuit.
Then, for the other side, we get the bitter, male-hating Marilyn McNeil, athletic director of Monmouth University and chairwoman of the NCAA's committee on women's athletics.
"I hated the movie `Rudy,' " said Marilyn McNeil.
"If you're not going to get your uniform dirty during games, you shouldn't be on the team," said McNeil, who is also the chairwoman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's committee on women's athletics. "I believe there is still an opportunity for a walk-on to bloom on our teams, but there has to be a cutoff date for those who just want to hang around. We can't afford it. It's time to tell these students: `You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage.'
"Some guys just like to be part of the group. Then 10 years later they will talk about being on their college team, when the fact is they never played."
You see, the men who are complaining are just a bunch of athletically challenged cry-babies.
Of course, an unbiased look at the problem reveals it's a little more unfair, yet benevolent, than McNeil and her ilk would like to believe. You see, these colleges allow every woman to walk-on who wants to, so some men who want to walk-on can play.
Now, it's getting to the point where many programs won't take walk-ons at all because maintaining the balance between men and women is too precious and precarious.
It's unfortunate that once good and well-intentioned Title IX program has come to this. Some mens' programs are filing federal lawsuits seeking to change the way Title IX is enforced. Instead of having athletic participation based on the percentage of men and women in the student body, it should be based on the percentage of men and women in the student body who are interested in participating.
The best solution, of course, would be to allow everyone who wants to participate in sports the opportunity. Unfortunately funding is finite and interest, while not infinite, is always higher.
For a more complete view of the issue check out Jessica Gavora's book "Tilting the Playing Field."