Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are Health Care Costs Causing Colleges to Drop Men's Sports Teams in the U. S.?

Are Health Care Costs Causing Colleges to Drop Men's Sports Teams in the U. S.?

By Evan Weiner
August 15, 2009
1:30 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- Here is a disclaimer, I have not been an investigative reporter in a long time and instead I have written a lot of columns, did seven years worth of radio commentary and been a "TV expert" based on a lot of research and using a lot of contacts. Being a "TV expert" I should add doesn't require a lot of gravitas as American cable TV news networks and American talk radio provide vivid examples of that on a daily basis. So, I am just presenting a conversation from March 2006 at the NFL Spring Owners Meeting in Orlando, Florida as a start off point for any journalist or perhaps the Women's Sports Foundation or public advocacy groups should someone want to really look into the validity of the claim.

Someone who was working on a NFL training camp related project for a team located not that far from that Orlando resort where the NFL barons were conducting business started discussing college sports and how college athletic directors, administrators, chancellors and presidents were using Title IX commitments to field women's sports teams as an excuse for dropping men's sports teams like wrestling because of equity issues instead of being truthful and giving the real reason men's sports were being dumped.

The person said the real reason men's teams were eliminated was to do out of control health insurance costs not that colleges had to offer a number of women's sports because of the President Richard Nixon signed Title IX legislation that was helped shaped by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens back in 1972. Both Nixon and Stevens were Republicans and Nixon was in favor of a universal health care plan back in 1974 before he was taken down by Watergate.

It would be rather interesting to hear from college athletic directors in the health care insurance debate currently taking place across America because it seems colleges have a huge stake in the debate if that guy who was discussing why a specific school was dropping men's programs was correct back in March 2006.

It doesn't appear that the Obama Administration is going to weaken the Nixon signed law although the Bush Administration did review Title IX and ultimately left the law intact. But colleges are cutting back on sports teams with the primary reason being revenue shortfalls however colleges were dropping various "minor" sports teams prior to the cratering of the economy.

In many ways, the Title IX legislation opened the door for women in sports and other fields, including medicine and the law, because Title IX bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics.

Title IX has changed how college sports are played in the country. Before 1972, the U.S. General Accounting Office released a figure showing that 32,000 women had participated in college sports, and that figure grew to 163,000 by 1999.

Men no longer get 95 percent of the dollars earmarked for sports, and that has caused friction in the men's teams coaching fraternity. A good number of those coaches think Title IX has taken away their ability to get the best athletes for their teams because they can't spend scholarship money solely for men's teams. Perhaps it is more than just women's college sports that is causing problems, perhaps it is time to look at insurance premiums and see if male athletes are being frozen out not by women athletes but rather bean counters at insurance companies as insurance costs have skyrocketed.

Men's sports programs have been eliminated at schools.

But, oddly enough, Title IX was never meant to level out the college-sports playing field and give women sports opportunities. Title IX's original intent was to give women a fair chance at being accepted in a school and for women professors to get equal opportunity at advancing within the system.

Title IX has worked. By 1994, women received 38 percent of medical degrees earned in the United States, compared with 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of law degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972, and 44 percent of all doctoral degrees, up from 25 percent in 1977.

Title IX is too tied into sports. And that brings a more significant question that needs to be answered. Should colleges and universities be in the big-time sports business? College sports has become more than $5 billion-a-year industry, and schools are paying as much as $2 million a year for football coaches. Media companies are flooding some college conferences like the Southeast Conference with bucket loads of money.

The Title IX argument comes down to money and who should get it for sports. Are men more deserving of the money because they take part in traditional sporting events or are women equal partners?

The answer should be that women are equals.

It would be rather intriguing to see some enterprising reporter at whatever is left of America's newspapers to delve into whether colleges dropped men's sports programs because of Title IX or if Title IX is being used as a cover because health insurance is far too costly. If a reporter can't do the research, then a college sports business management program should. Someone needs to do the research and find out what is really occurring.

Title IX has created diversity in society and is not just a piece of sports legislation -- it is time someone sets the record straight. Is has the health insurance industry put some men's college sports teams in dry dock or is Title IX? The answer might be very surprising or astonishing

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