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February 18, 2004

Gender Imbalance In The Balance

FROM CALIFORNIA’S VERDANT CENTRAL VALLEY comes compelling evidence of the cleverness and inventiveness of post Title IX college athletics administrators.

The student body at California State University in Stanislaus has an exaggerated gender imbalance: females outnumber males by a whopping 2-to-1 ratio. Stanislaus State’s 66% female enrollment exceeds the 56% figure for college undergraduate enrollment nationally.

Stan State has experienced difficulty in satisfying Title IX gender equity guidelines due to the prevalence of females in its student population.

With commendable creativity and imagination, Stan State concocted an easily executed gender correction maneuver to boost its female athlete numbers. For one day the Stan State women’s cross country team morphed from 12 full-time members to 43 runners. Brilliant. And totally within the rules.

The supplemental 31 one-day runners were softball and basketball players. The temporary cross country athletes ran one for the Gipper in order to allow the school to add seven roster spots to its men's teams. These spots had been cut previously to stay in line with Title IX rules.

Although seemingly conspicuous and improper, double-counting the 31 one day runners as bona fide cross country team members is entirely within current NCAA rules.

Stanislaus State AD Milt Richards said, "We went through all the rules to figure out what we could and could not do. This was something we could do."

Such ingenuity is reminiscent of distinctions of when is is “is” and energetic TV courtroom maneuvers to create the benefit-of-the-doubt.

Stan State is not the first to push the envelope. In recent times several other schools have boosted female athlete numbers to reinstate or protect male athlete numbers. For example, Maryland declared cheerleading a varsity sport and Nebraska fielded a women’s equestrian team of 60-plus riders.

An NCAA spokesperson suggests that Stan State’s remedy man belies the spirit of Title IX, which is to provide meaningful participation opportunities for all student-athletes.

"If student-athletes are participating simply to inflate numbers, that is contrary to the spirit of Title IX," said Judy Sweet, NCAA VP for championships and education services.

No rules being broken, but the issue of ethics has been raised. The interpretation of meaningful participation comes into play here. Some people might not feel comfortable describing one day participation on a cross country team as meaningful participation.

“The issue of ethics has never been raised because we're following the rules,” said AD Richards. Is “is” is?

That’s why we have the NCAA to clarify interpretations of not entirely specific rules. And if necessary, judges and the court system.

(this excerpt was extracted from an article in the Modesto Bee of 2-13-04, along with commentary provided by College Athletics Clips)