VETTEL: Time For Scholarship Fairness

When the Federal Government passed Title IX, the law eliminating discrimination in intercollegiate athletics, it was an important step towards ending decades of unfair treatment for women in this country. Schools began offering scholarships for female student-athletes or dramatically increasing scholarships. It was important and necessary progress and college administrators should be ashamed it took an act of congress to get it done.

However, as is usually the case when government decides to solve a problem, there are unintended consequences that are being ignored. Primarily reverse discrimination and grossly under-funded men's sports. At first glance, those may be viewed as a small price to pay but it's not that simple. When schools decided to comply with Title IX at the expenses of male student-athletes they were doing the wrong thing. That administrators show no interest in rectifying this unconscionable situation is appalling.

The main culprit in this is the non-support for college baseball. Think about what baseball players go through. A fall season, a 56-game regular season that pretty much takes four months. Up to five phases of post-season which can take up another five weeks. This year, the Gators played 71 games, the first on February 11 and the last on June 26.

For that effort, the entire Florida squad got to divvy up the grand total of 11.7 scholarships. If you base the math on 25 players per team, each player gets less than half of a scholarship.

Keep in mind, while baseball does not pay for itself, it does generate substantial dollars for UF. Florida drew 87,901 fans for 38 regular season home games. If you figure each fan spends six bucks --- which is really conservative considering tickets, concessions and souvenirs --- that's over a half million dollars. Add in five post-season crowds totaling another 24,209 at "The Mac" and you can see where there's some serious coin involved.

Plus you have the impact of radio and television revenue for the sport as a whole and baseball is #3 on campus in terms of generating income.

It Keeps Baseball Lilly White

      I'm convinced the lack of scholarship opportunities is the biggest single factor in why college baseball is almost an all-white sport. "

I'm convinced the lack of scholarship opportunities is the biggest single factor in why college baseball is almost an all-white sport. Low-income kids, many of who are black/Hispanic are not playing college baseball. Hispanic kids by and large sign for whatever they can get and black youngsters just stopped playing the game. Major League Baseball is looking for ways to address its dwindling number of black players. I suggest they start with finding a way to get colleges (or help colleges) to fully-fund the sport.

Reverse Discrimination

In trying to achieve the absurd standard of "proportionality" the NCAA engages in another example blatant unfairness. It's reverse discrimination, and it's applied on every college campus. The Proportionality test for Title IX compliance checks to see if the percentage of women's scholarship offerings is proportional to the percentage of men's scholarship offerings.

What an inane standard! It assumes interest in sports for men and women is the same. It is not. Check out intramural programs on any college campus and you will find more guys take part.

Do we make certain education scholarship distribution is proportional? Engineering? Journalism? It would be foolish. Yet the powers that be in college athletics use this nonsense to in essence cheat male student-athletes.

Reverse discrimination was used by many that protested affirmative action in college admissions and there was at least a point there. There is no legit point to the reverse discrimination as it relates to scholarship opportunities in certain collegiate sports.

The University of Florida competes in five sports in which it fields both a men's and women's team. In each of the five -- Track and Field, Swimming and Diving, Golf, Tennis and Basketball - the NCAA allows more scholarships for the women's team than for the men. That is an absurd way to reach "proportionality". Here are the numbers:

Sport Women Men
Basketball 14 13
Track and Field 20 12.6
Swimming and Diving 14 9.9
Tennis 8 4.5
Golf 6 4.5

That's 17.5 fewer scholarships for guys in the exact same sport as their female counterparts. Add in the 13.3 you need to fully fund baseball and it would take 30.8 scholarships to eliminate unfairness at UF. If you estimate a scholarship at about $12,000 a year, that's less than $400,000. With a $63 million annual budget, that's pocket change for the Gators. It might be tougher for other schools, but it's the right thing to do.

As for the implications of the law, it's pretty simple. The NCAA has no rules against women receiving football scholarships. Since football is the only gender-neutral sport on campus, those scholarships should not be counted in the proportionality calculation. Should Congress not accept that, then add 30.8 scholarships on the other side of the ledger... the total cost still comes in under $1,000,000. UF spends that much partying with fat cats at their bowl game.

I don't blame the NCAA or its member schools for the law. Congress wrote it and for the most part it is a great piece of legislation. I do fault college administrators for not making it a priority to make scholarship fairness a priority in moving forward. Most every top program could afford it. And if Congress would not relent on the proportionality test, you could make up much of it by offering full scholarships to cheerleaders and dazzlers.

But whatever it takes, get it done.

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Have a great week.

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