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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Monday, June 24, 2002
10:02 PM

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean I don't have enemies...I have descended into telephone customer-service hell, with my home service not working and who knows how long it'll be until it's restored. Blogging could be light for as long as I have to work from a secure, undisclosed cave. I wanted to do a more complete job on some issues, but tonight's quick-and-dirty Title IX rundown will have to do.

Both the Post's Sally Jenkins and Ellen Goodman claim football is one of the chief culprits in the Title IX dispute. Jenkins:

Women haven't cut men's wrestling -- predominantly male athletic directors have because they didn't want to make far more painful and unpopular decisions. Seventy percent of Division I athletic budgets are devoted to football and men's basketball. But in 1999, only 41 percent of football teams and 51 percent of basketball teams broke even. The rest were in the red.

Well, most sports are in the red. More on that in a second. Goodman here:

Title IX is simply not the cause of wrestling's decline. After all, every school has a right to decide how to allocate the sports budget. It's just easier to tackle -- if that's the right word -- women than, say, the football team. Football? Did I say football, boys and girls? There is an unshakable belief that football pays the bills for more than huge salaries, titanium face masks and a mahogany-paneled coach's office. But whose football fantasies are we talking about when 58 percent of the big college teams don't even break even?

And our hero, Jessica Gavora of Tilting the Playing Field:

Using data from the 1996-97 academic year, University of Arizona economics professor R. Bruce Billings calculated that Division I-A football programs on average earn 43 percent of all sports revenues and incur 26 percent of total sports costs. The same analysis shows that the number two revenue-producing sport, men's basketball, earns 16.1 percent of average total revenues while incurring 7.5 percent of average total costs. These revenues over expenses go back into the system to fund other programs.

Feminists decry the high costs of big-time football programs as if they were robbing the budgets of women's sports. In fact, according to an analysis done by the Chronicle of Higher Education, it is the "have" schools, whose budgets are bursting with "tainted" profits from football and men's basketball, that do the best job of providing opportunities and spending for women's athletes.

The schools that belong to what the Chronicle calls the "equity" conferences with big-time football and basketball television contracts and bowl games--the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences--are those that field the largest and most diverse women's sports programs."

There are differences between the SuperSize programs and everybody else. And the size of a school's endowment and whether it's a state or private school also affect the outcome, according to Gavora's account of Billings' work. But big-time football and to a lesser extent big-time male basketball programs do, in fact, help subsidize other men's and women's sports. And it's a good thing, too.

[A] Philadelphia Inquirer study that showed the unequal distribution of wealth in collegiate athletic programs also found that women's sports kick very little into the coffers. Basketball is the female glamour sport, the women's equivalent of football. Yet according to the study, the top 100 women's basketball teams in the country lost a total of $65 million in 1999 (while men's basketball at the same schools made $150 million.)

The exception is the champion U-Conn lady Huskies, who have a television contract and made $1 million, she writes.

Feminists can't clamor for protections and preferences for women's programs in federal law while at the same time demanding that men's programs alone be justified on a profit-making basis. But clamor they do, and at the root of their grievance is a deep antipathy for football and macho traditions it carries with it. This is why they are willing to claim that the elimination of men's teams under Title IX is a conspiracy orchestrated by big-time football.

I'd forgotten about football being a favorite target of feminists, back to the Super Bowl domestic-abuse hoax of the past decade.

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