How far the National Collegiate Athletic Association has come from the days when it fought Title IX tooth and nail. Now it is telling its members to ignore controversial federal guidance that is seen as making it easier for colleges to prove that they are not discriminating against female athletes, and urging the U.S. government to ditch the policy.
Last month, the Education Department quietly issued new guidelines that allow colleges to show that they are meeting the athletics "interests and abilities" of female students by sending their current students an e-mail survey. Advocates for women's sports attacked the department's policy and the "model survey" it proposed, on a number of fronts, complaining that e-mail surveys are unreliable and that canvassing only current students wouldfail to capture the attitudes of a college's potential students.
The NCAA's president, Myles Brand, criticized the new standard in the days after its release. And at a meeting Thursday, the executive committee adopted a resolution that pans the department both for the procedures it used (releasing the guidance "without notice or opportunity for public input") and the policy it produced.
The department's "clarification," the NCAA resolution says, is "inconsistent" with the government's previous policies; lets colleges survey only "enrolled and admitted students, thereby permitting them to evade their legal obligation to measure interest broadly," and endorses a flawed survey methodology, among other problems.
The resolution goes on to discourage NCAA member colleges from using the procedures set forth in the department's March guidance, and to urge the department -- or "federal policymakers," a clear reference to Congress -- to revoke the new guidance.
"The resolution reaffirms our strong commitment to the enforcement of Title IX policies on our member institution campuses," Carol Cartwright, president of Kent State University and chair of the executive committee, said in a prepared statement.
In a busy day of meetings at NCAA headquarters, the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors, which was among several NCAA panels that endorsed the Title IX resolution, took several other actions as well.
The board voted by a margin of 8 to 2, with one abstention, to let Division I-A football teams play 12 games a year, up from the current 11. The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a sports reform group, urged the board this week to vote down the 12th game, citing its concern that financial needs were overpowering academic considerations. College sports officials argued that the scheduling of a 12th game would bring much needed revenue to offset the rapidly escalating costs of most big-time sports departments.
But at a telephone news conference Thursday, Brand testily rebuffed suggestions that the 12th game would hurt players academically. He noted that the change would not extend the actual length of the playing season, since the 12th game would be played on what is now an off week.
He also said that many teams have played 12 games in the last two seasons, taking advantage of a 2002 rule change that permitted an extra game in years when there are 14 Saturdays during the NCAA's permissible playing season, which runs from mid-August through the end of November. During those two seasons, "we've seen no evidence of all of reported academic effects," Brand said.
The Division I board also recommended that the association's executive committee draft a new policy governing -- and presumably restricting -- alcohol-related advertising during television broadcasts of NCAA events.