Al Gore's acceptance speech last night brought to an end the major political party conventions for 2000. Many notable discussions were held this year in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. However, one non-traditional issue managed to get a brief moment in the national spotlight. For the first time in history, the Republican Party Platform included a statement of gender equality in sports. Although Title IX (9) became law in 1972, which gives women equal opportunity to compete in school athletic programs on all levels, recent cuts in some men's programs have prompted lawsuits and new controversy. 90.3's Tarice Sims reports on its impact in Ohio.
Tarice Sims- Miami University junior Mario Contardi is among many student athletes who have mixed feelings about Title IX. He came to Miami on a tennis scholarship and as a freshman continued playing the sport he'd been groomed to play since he was three. But in his sophomore year the men's tennis team was eliminated. Contardi and his former teammates sued the University along with members of the men's wrestling and soccer teams which were also cut. Contardi's younger sister still plays on the women's tennis team.
Mario Contardi- Title IX is a good thing, a good idea and it means well, but the way everything's turning out, schools are reversing the whole thing, taking the easy way out.
TS- Contardi has company. Nate Studney is a recent graduate of Miami University. He was a former member of what was the wrestling team there.
Nate Studney- It was supposed to help facilitate women into athletics. My first impression was it wasn't supposed to harm men. My final impression is in fact it does harm men's athletics.
TS- Title IX requires that the percentages of male and female athletes at a particular school correspond to the percentages of male and female students overall. Miami Athletic Director Joel Maturi says when he took the job two years ago, 55% of the student body was female, but only a third of the athletes were women. The athletic department was also a million dollars in debt. Maturi says the only way he could balance the budget and comply with Title IX was to cut some of the men's teams and keep all of the women's teams.
Joel Maturi- I think the year of the decision was the most difficult. You have people fighting for their lives. I tried to dissuade pitting sport against sport unfortunately that didn't happen, we had sports against other sports, you had male athletes looking at female athletes unfavorably. And as painful as it was it was the best decision for Miami.
TS- Miami isn't the only school struggling with the law. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, colleges and universities cut more than two hundred male sports teams between 1992 and 1997. The University of Cincinnati followed suit in '98, dropping its men's indoor track, men's tennis, and coed rifle teams. UC's athletic director Bob Goin says this year they'll add women's rowing as part of their gender equity plan.
Bob Goin- We have a moral and a legal obligation to provide as many opportunities that our women want that we can afford. It's a really good faith attempt but I'm not in complete agreement with all the mandates but they are mandates and we have to live with them.
TS- For women who had to live without competitive sports in school, the law opened many doors. Nancy Hanger is a girls' volleyball coach at Clyde High School outside Sandusky. When she was growing up, her schools didn't have girls sports teams. To satisfy her need to compete, she had to wait until she got home to challenge her brother in a game of basketball.
Nancy Hanger- Look at all these opportunities these women have that people in my generation did not have. That's a positive thing. Do I think we're there yet - are we done yet - no - but it's much, much better.
TS- Both UC and Miami University's athletic directors applaud the opportunities that Title IX has provided for women. At the same time, they regret that they had to cut some men's teams in order to achieve gender balance. Miami's Joel Maturi says he still gets letters and e-mails that, quote, blast him for his decision to cut men's tennis, wrestling and soccer. His opponents argue instead of cutting men's teams he should have created new women's teams to even the number of male and female athletes. And, money to fund those new teams could have come from sports like football, which accounts for 25% of Miami's athletic budget. But, Maturi says, cutting those funds was not an option.
JM- Our Football budget can't be at a competitive disadvantage. I would rather eliminate a sport than reduce the competitiveness.
TS- Girls' volleyball coach Nancy Hanger says the law was never intended to deny men the chance to compete, but simply is meant to provide equal opportunities for both genders. But she says until schools are willing to equally distribute funds among all teams it's inevitable that some male athletes will pay the price.
NH- I don't think our goal is to take away opportunities from the men and of course as we know the biggest problem is money. That's what it all hinges on not emotional. When you add sports for a group that has been discriminated against your gonna have to have the money come from somewhere.
TS- Last Spring most of the claims in the law suit against Miami University were dismissed. A U.S district court judge ruled that Miami did not violate Title IX, when it cut the three men's teams. Next spring the court will hear arguments on whether individual Miami officials, including Joel Maturi, violated the equal protection rights of the male athletes who lost their teams. In Cleveland Tarice Sims, 90.3 FM.