The gap between the number of men and women playing college sports is narrowing, but a growing disparity between schools with major football programs and others that don't emphasize the sport is changing the landscape of college athletics, a new report says.
The annual analysis of gender equity in college sports by The Chronicle of Higher Education also found that the loss of male athletes under Title IX may not have been as bad as expected in many places. Approved in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex by any school that receives federal money.
The Chronicle found that on average 267 male athletes participated in Division I athletic programs in 2001-02 compared with 208 female athletes.
In 2000-01, an average of 270 men and 204 women competed for Division I schools. In 1995-96, the average number of male participants stood at 244, compared with 143 females.
There's also a gap between how much schools spend on men's and women's athletic programs: The study found the average college in Division I, the top tier of collegiate athletics, spent more than $3 million on women's sports and $5.8 million on men's sports in 2001-02.
Division I's more than 300 schools run the gamut from small, liberal arts colleges to large state universities that place heavy emphasis on athletics. In 2001-02, the athletic expenses at Division I schools averaged $12.9 million, up from an average of $5.8 million in 1996-97.
The average budget at schools in the six major conferences that participate in the NCAA football Bowl Championship Series was much higher. It rose from $14 million to $34 million between 1996-97 and 2001-02, according to the report.
BCS colleges reported average athletic department profits of $3 million compared, with losses of up to $1 million at institutions without major football programs, the report said.
The ability of the BCS schools to fill large football stadiums while commanding lucrative television deals ''shows the power that those schools have in the marketplace,'' said Welch Suggs, the Chronicle editor who prepared the study. ''That translates into this gap that is widening day-by-day and season-by-season.''
Suggs used statistics compiled from the Equity Athletics Disclosure Act, legislation that requires schools to report data about finances and participation in college athletic programs.
Faced with budget cuts, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a Division I-AA school with a football program that doesn't break even, has eliminated six of its 29 sports programs including men's and women's water polo and gymnastics.
''It's a constant process of reviewing squad sizes for each of your teams and making sure the bottom line balances so you have a proportionate number of men and women participating in athletes,'' Ian McCaw, the school's athletic director, told The Associated Press.
The report also found that while individual schools have drastically cut back on men's sports programs to bring about gender equity, Title IX has not had that effect in most cases.
Nationwide, the report said, only 38 colleges reduced the number of male athletes by more than 10 percent since 1996-97. Over the same period, 165 schools have added more than 10 percent.
''If you look at it from an overall standpoint, the number of male athletes participating in Division I sports has actually increased over the past 20 years,'' Suggs said.
On the Net:
The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.chronicle.com/stats/genderequity
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