Talking about Title IX is a lose-lose situation.
If you speak out against Title IX, you become a chauvinist pig; if you support Title IX, you become a feminist. Public opinion allows for little gray area in an issue that’s anything but black and white.
At the risk of being that “chauvinist pig,” Title IX could use a little tweaking.
Hear me out before tossing me into the same ghastly category as former Braves’ closer John Rocker.
The intent of Title IX is clearly uncontroversial and boldly acts as a front-line defense against discrimination of women in sports. However, the implementation results in unequal cuts.
Most people read the fine print or hear something on the news and think they are well-versed in the matter. Yet, hardly anybody can back their judgments with personal experience.
My teammate later called it “The Letter of Doom.” I walked into my coach’s office to talk about the team’s media guide and was handed a memo on my way out.
It read: “Your attendance at a mandatory meeting of selected track and field athletes is required on Friday, February 24, 2006 at 5:00 p.m. in Mott Gym, Room 205E. Your failure to attend will indicate to the coaching staff that you are no longer interested in being on the men’s track and field team and your name will be cut from the roster permanently.”
As I left the office, Terry Crawford, the director of Cal Poly track and field, assured me I had nothing to worry about. Heeding her advice, I didn’t think much of Friday’s meeting – until I spoke to my teammate about it.
“We’re all getting cut,” one of them told me. Neither of us understood the scope or intent of the letter at the time, but now I was worried. Nine months of sweat and sacrifice, early morning trips to the weight room and long afternoons on the track, and this is how it ends? One week before the season starts and poof, it’s over.
“Isn’t this a big deal?” I thought, remembering my coach’s parting words when I left her office.
We had an hour after practice ended before the meeting began. I spent my time with teammates Terrance Grady and Jeremy Vukasinovic as we chatted our way to Backstage Pizza. Terrance was puzzled about my concerns.
“You know we’re getting put back on the team, right?” he said.
“It’s only a temporary thing. I guess we get cut for a few weeks then after spring break, we’re back on the roster. It’s some Title IX thing.”
Title IX? I thought I knew all about the equality in the sports statute; but what did it have to do with the Cal Poly track team? I soon found out.
Fifteen of us sat in desks in a classroom on the second floor of Mott Gym. Some made quiet conversation, others sat with emotionless stares. A silent tension filled the room. Then coach Crawford entered and told us what we all expected: We were cut.
Effective one week from that day, our names were being taken off the team roster. However, just as Terrance said, following spring break we were being placed back on the roster.
I was afraid to talk about my situation because I thought our coach was taking part in a secretive, potentially incriminating procedure to keep us around. It turns out she was playing by the rules.
Here I am, nearly two months later, back on the roster and competing for Cal Poly. I was lucky our coach and administration were willing to work out a solution. Not everybody in the same situation is so fortunate.
For one hour I knew what it felt like to be a wrestler at Marquette University, a school that dropped its wrestling team after five years of narrowly ducking the Title IX axe. I felt what gymnasts, a fencer, a swimmer or any of the other sports that have seen losses over the years feel.
You don’t have to be a chauvinist pig to express your thoughts about Title IX. It isn’t about eliminating Title IX. Yes, female athletes were wronged throughout the ’70s, ’80s and are still on their way to equality, due in large part to Title IX. But does that mean we need to look at male cuts as “unfortunate byproducts”?
Don’t I count, too?