Out of Bounds: Title IX creates barriers for club athletes

According to Time magazine, Title IX was passed in 1972 to provide equal opportunities to both sexes in participation in sports by “outlawing gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs.” Enforced by the NCAA on college campuses, it works to ensure that the number of female athletes and teams is proportional to female student enrollment––likewise with male athletes and teams.

With the law’s 43rd anniversary this year, there has been a lot of reexaminination of the purposes of Title IX and how it is enforced. Although Title IX aims to eliminate gender discrimination, it can limit student participation in varsity athletics. According to nces.ed.gov, male enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions has increased by nearly 3,000,000 since 1976. Meanwhile, female enrollment has increased by over 6,500,000. The Lamron reported in September 2014 that the class of 2018—differently from years past—saw an increase in male enrollment: 53 percent male and 47 percent female.

How will this affect student athletes in regards to Title IX’s proportion requirement? With eight varsity men’s and 12 varsity women’s teams at this school, it’s clear to see how the typically higher female enrollment has had an effect on the ratio of women’s to men’s teams.

At other leading universities, football hinders the process of keeping up with necessary proportions. Highly spectated and often a source of significant financial revenue, football is different from other college sports. It is also a sport that has an extensive roster. At large universities a football team can leave its schools with proportionality gaps—leaving them legally vulnerable.

Geneseo lacks a football team—something that is able to keep the proportionality levels intact more so than at other schools. With this big-ticket male enrollment sport, it leaves less room for women’s sports to get recognized, leaving them in the “club” classification dust.

Fewer roster spots on the women’s varsity teams allow women’s sports to outnumber men’s. Because of this, sports like men’s tennis, men’s volleyball, women’s ice hockey and cheerleading are left to be classified as club sports.

Funding for clubs compared to varsity sports is drastically different. Club sports must send a representative to weekly Student Association meetings in order to maintain their limited funding. Club teams’ budgets must be used for equipment and uniforms, practice, competition and travel. SA will also only provide half of what each team needs for its budget; the rest must be raised within the club itself either through dues or fundraising.

Co-captain of Geneseo’s cheerleading club junior Megan Brunner, however, noted that she likes that her team is a club. “It allows the captains more flexibility to pick the competitions we go to,” she said. “If we were a varsity sport, we would deal with more state regulations as opposed to through SA.” Having sports at a club level undoubtedly can allow the team to focus on goals such as having fun or pursuing educational purposes, instead of purely competitive aspirations.

While aiming to equalize sport availability to the sexes, Title IX seems more like a game of numbers and proportions used in order to satisfy an outdated law. The law seems to have loopholes that need adjusting. It needs to take into consideration increased female enrollment at universities as compared to male enrollment, and the interest each sex has in competitive sports at each university rather than limiting student athletes through proportional explanations.

Editor’s note: Caitlin Hamberger is a member of club cheerleading.