Scenario one: “That’s my Title IX team” I heard someone yell from the staging area at a cross country meet in the fall.
As the women crossed the finish line on the first loop of the race, I wasn’t sure what to think. They were running well behind the leader and seemed to be slowing down.
In the end, the highest finisher from T.N.T. (Presumably an acronym for Title Nine Team) was Diana Fatyga, in 71st place. Her teammates finished 75-76 and 78-79-80 out of 80 runners in the field. Fatyga was five minutes behind the leader; Stacy McMalmount, the last place finisher, was nearly 11 minutes behind the race winner.
Scenario two: “As of next Friday, your names will be taken off the roster. After spring break, assuming you meet the conditions listed, you will be placed back on the roster,” director of Cal Poly track and field Terry Crawford said solemnly, addressing 15 male track athletes.
One of the athletes in the room would return in three weeks and run a 3:50.68 1,500 meter, second on the Big West Conference list in the event.
Another would have qualified himself for the Big West Championships with a high jump of 6-6. However, Terrance Grady made his leap while competing unattached in his three-week hiatus and will need to duplicate the mark in the next two weeks if he is to compete at the conference championships in the second week of May.
Title IX often makes national headlines, but the individual stories are often lost amid impersonal legal briefs.
On March 3, 15 Cal Poly male track and field athletes were cut, victims of roster capping. Each athlete had survived the tryout process as walk-ons, but two weeks prior to the first competition, their status became unclear.
“Roster sizes are probably the most difficult thing we deal with,” Cal Poly athletic director Alison Cone said. “There’s nothing worse than having talented, eager athletes who want to participate and you have to tell them no.”
Scenario one depicts a method Fresno State University used to up its female participation numbers. Although a Fresno State coach wasn’t available for interview, the names of several members of “T.N.T.” are listed on the Fresno State cross country roster. By increasing its female participants, more male athletes would be allowed for various sports.
Although Fresno State’s approach to boosting roster caps might seem controversial, it still allows for increased female participation, which is the intent of Title IX, Cone said.
Scenario two is an example of both the potential shortfalls of Title IX and a system to work around the standards. The unfortunate byproduct of Title IX implementation is a loss of opportunities for males, but the huge increase in female chances can’t be overlooked, Cone said.
Roster capping is a technique used by universities to keep participation numbers proportionate to enrollment. A school’s proportionality relates to the quota needed to meet the Title IX standards of the university.
Title IX provides three separate methods for an institution to become compliant. The second and third prongs are largely unchallenged due to court precedents and clear interpretation, NCAA gender equities spokesperson Rosie Stallman said.
The second prong allows compliance for schools showing a history and ongoing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented gender. The third polls interest of the student body to ensure the underrepresented sex is substantially accommodated.
The first and most commonly used method measures male and female participation opportunities, which are supposed to be substantially proportionate to the school’s enrollment.
For example, Cal Poly is 55 percent male. That percentage allows the school to appropriate 55 percent of its budget and roster spots for male athletes.
If Cal Poly were up-to-par with national enrollment averages, a male team or two would need to be cut or a women’s team added.
“We know (the first prong) is an option, and for some schools it’s a good option, while some schools it doesn’t fit what their philosophy is,” Stallman said.
At the end of the athletic year, each institution takes stock of its roster sizes and files a report with the Department of Education. Roster sizes are taken on the first day of competition.
Track and field was the final Cal Poly sport to begin competition with its meet at UCLA on March 4. As a result, the team took an abnormally large number of cuts.
“We sort of ended up making the correction for the whole department,” Crawford said. “We were very surprised when we were told we would have to make additional cuts.”
However, the NCAA allows for free roster management following what Cone described as a “snapshot glance.” Before and after the first date of competition, coaches can add athletes to their roster at will.
The Cal Poly track runners cut on March 3 returned to the team several weeks later, free from the binds of Title IX.
“Is it a bit of a loophole? I guess it could be used as a bit of a loophole,” Cone said.
Loophole or not, Cone was wary of the issue being addressed because “you have the potential of denying some opportunities for people who legitimately should get them.”
These “timely cuts” don’t affect female participation and allow for more male opportunities, Cone said.
Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, echoed Cone’s worries.
Moyer took aim at proportionality. The national average for enrollment is 57 percent female, which proportionally doesn’t translate to many opportunities for a large roster, low income male sports, Moyer said.
“The first line of defense for schools to meet Title IX is to trim male roster sizes – how does that help women’s sizes?” Moyer said.
Moyer’s organization sued the U.S. Department of Education in 2002 on the basis of reverse discrimination, but the case was thrown out.
Moyer argued that the interpretation of Title IX and use of proportionality leads to discrimination against male athletes, as well as females on small-roster teams that are cut or rarely added to university’s for teams with larger roster sizes.
Roster capping due to proportionality forces universities to make a decision: Either cut opportunities or add them. When players or teams are cut, the athletes involved are almost always walk-ons, Moyer said – like Terrance Grady and his 14 teammates from Cal Poly.
In his time as wrestling coach at George Mason University, walk-ons regularly scored for his team at the conference championships and were a large part of his team’s success. Due to proportionality, those same point-scoring walk-ons are in danger of being cut.
Moyer called Marquette University the poster child for his Title IX stance. For five years leading up to the 2001, the team was almost entirely privately funded, but the program was still terminated, Moyer said.
“How did that benefit women? And if that’s not discrimination against males then what is?”
Frank Stranzl is the sports editor and a member of the Cal Poly track team; the article is intended to raise awareness of alternative methods schools use to comply with Title IX and the struggle some teams face.