Athletics

Panel defends athletes, says ncaa reforms not good enough

College athletes deserve much more than an additional $2,000, panelists said Tuesday on Capitol Hill -- they deserve for the NCAA to stop exploiting them.

NCAA board approves athletic eligibility rules for division I athletes

The NCAA finalized and approved the many details of new academic eligibility requirements to be phased in for athletes.

NCAA data show more athletes graduating from college

Announcing the highest-ever graduation rates for athletes, NCAA officials say proposals to raise academic standards again will ensure this year's increase isn't an anomaly.

Knight Commission hears emmert discuss ncaa proposals

The NCAA will act this week on proposals aimed at increasing integrity and accountability on the field and off, but some proposals could cause tension between athletic and academic departments.

Essay: Big-time college athletes deserve financial support and security

The realignment of major college football conferences highlights the explosive growth of commercialism in college sports, and universities’ willingness to exploit supposedly amateur athletes to reach new television markets. Most sports fans are aware that universities already pay athletes in the form of room and board, tuition and fees, an investment that can range from $30,000 to $50,000 a year. However, given rapid industry expansion, it is reasonable to ask if college athletes deserve a raise.

There are good reasons to raise the National Collegiate Athletic Association's cap on player compensation. Big-time college athletes are generating more revenue than ever, much of which is funneled into non-revenue and women’s sports. They provide great commercial entertainment and a marketing platform for hundreds of other non-sports products. Although other merit award recipients contribute to campus life, they do not fill stadiums with thousands of fans. They do not risk serious injury daily, and coaches do not control their lives from dawn to dusk.   

From an academic perspective, the most reasonable way to increase player compensation is to enhance their opportunity to receive the education a scholarship is supposed to provide. As John Thompson, Georgetown’s former men’s basketball coach, has said, “If you get a scholarship, it is extremely important to understand that it has a money value to it.” A few changes in NCAA rules could significantly increase federal graduation rates for athletes, thus raising the dollar value of their scholarships.

One such proposal is to return to multiyear scholarships. This proposal, which the NCAA’s  president, Mark Emmert, says is gaining broad support within the NCAA, would guarantee the yearly renewal of financial aid to athletes who continue playing and adhere to team rules. Under this system, coaches would no longer be able to cancel scholarships to make room for more talented players, thus increasing the percentage of freshmen likely to graduate from the school that recruited them.

Another proposal gaining support within the NCAA is to pay athletes a stipend that would cover the full cost of attendance at their institutions. In 2009-10, the gap between the full cost of attending college and the amount the NCAA allows colleges to pay was about $3,940 at the University of Alabama. The term, “full ride,” is often used when referring to athletic scholarships. This proposal would make paying the full cost of attending college a reality and help athletes stay the course to graduation.

The federal graduation rate measures the proportion of students who graduate from the college they entered as freshmen within six years. The FGR for the general student body at the University of Florida in 2010 was 81 percent, compared with only 42 percent for  football players. Multiyear scholarships covering the full cost of attendance would narrow the gap between football players and other students. In fact, the graduation rate for players would likely exceed that of other students at many colleges.    

Proposals such as these, in conjunction with other reforms such as not allowing athletes admitted outside their colleges’ normal admissions processes to play as freshmen, would send out a strong message that the NCAA is committed to athletes as students, not as commodities in a labor market. Whether the NCAA restores multiyear scholarships, or retains one-year awards whose renewal is not conditioned on athletic ability or injury, this landmark legislation would recapture the spirit of amateurism that makes college sport a distinctive entertainment product.

The NCAA should make these changes immediately. Not only would this legislation improve federal graduation, but it would help the NCAA achieve its stated purpose of treating athletes as an integral part of the student body. Research has found that the higher the retention rate, the more socially and academically integrated a student is into a college or university. Forcing athletes who have been recruiting mistakes to transfer by canceling their scholarships turns them into academic nomads.

Adopting multiyear scholarships would also be a brilliant NCAA strategy for staving off attacks from the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, and a growing number of legal experts who think the line separating professional and collegiate sport has all but disappeared. When athletic scholarships become educational gifts rather than employment contracts, no court of law will challenge the NCAA’s commitment to education or mistake college athletes for players in the NFL.

Allen Sack, professor and interim dean in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, played on Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team. He is also president elect of the Drake Group, a faculty organization committed to academic integrity in collegiate sports.

Diversifying Through Football

At many Division I universities, sports remains a major -- if not the primary -- route to college for black men, data from more than 300 colleges show.

Foul Play

The Department of Education's March 17 letter announcing "additional clarification" of its policy for collegiate compliance with Title IX in athletic programs, issued without public input or comment, "clarifies" nothing and, instead, marks a dramatic and unprecedented reversal of the department's previous policy. It violates practically every legal principle upon which Title IX's 30-year jurisprudence is based and shifts the burden of compliance from schools to female athletes.

Specifically, the letter and accompanying "model survey" are contrary to established case law, contradict the department's prior pronouncements and its Title IX Athletics Investigator's Manual, and ignore the reality that high schools and colleges create sports teams by predetermining sports offerings and encouraging (in the case of high schools) and recruiting prospective athletes (in the case of colleges) rather than requiring a demonstration of interest by existing students.

The gist of the letter is that schools in which females are underrepresented in athletics compared to their proportion in the general student body (Prong 1 of Title IX’s participation requirement) and that have not demonstrated a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex (Prong 2) would be deemed in compliance with the law under Prong 3 of the athletic participation provision if they simply e-mailed a "model survey" to current students to determine their interests and abilities and found interest by the underrepresented sex to be lacking. 

This survey would create a presumption of compliance with Title IX, as long as the college or school did not recently drop a women's team or receive a recent request to elevate a women's club sport to varsity status. Once the survey is administered, the burden of demonstrating compliance with Prong 3 would shift from the college or school to the athlete. In essence, the institution would enjoy a presumption of compliance, a difficult hurdle for an athlete to surmount. 

The "model survey" issued by the department fails to provide a valid measure of women's interest in sports and, instead, institutionalizes the very discrimination that is and has been the basis for women's lack of opportunity to participate in sports. The use of surveys rests on the stereotyped notion that women are inherently less interested in sports than men, which is contradicted by the country's experience of Title IX and fundamental principles of civil rights law. 

Male athletes have never had to prove they were interested in sports to receive opportunities to play. Schools simply assumed male athletes were interested in sports, hired a coach who recruited athletes to play and offered varsity athletic experiences. Lo and behold, if you do the same for women, they too will play. We know of no instance in which a high school or college started a varsity women's team, hired a coach and then had the coach return his or her paycheck because they could not find enough women to play.

At the college level, athletes are only rarely recruited from the existing student body, but from the region or country at large. At the high school level, the coach finds students with and without experience or skill who are big enough or fast enough and urges them to come out for the team. Now, a college that goes out and recruits male athletes from all over the country and not from its existing student body, is not required to do the same for female athletes and can eliminate this obligation by administering an e-mail survey. Now, a high school is not obligated to encourage female athletes to come out for teams in the same way they encourage male athletes to come out for teams, so long as they administer an e-mail survey.

What an absence of common sense and abuse of power! A huge Title IX compliance loophole has been created despite a clear analysis by the courts on why surveys of the interest of the existing student body or even a pool of applicants to the university are patently wrong. In the most comprehensive and accepted case on the topic, Cohen v. Brown University, a federal appeals court stated that the type of survey the department has proposed to gauge compliance under the third prong was "illogical" and "circular" in its reasoning. 

The court expressly rejected the practice of surveying current students, noting that Brown actively recruits most students who end up playing on its varsity teams. The court stated: "What students are present on campus to participate in a survey of interests has already been predetermined through the recruiting practices of the coaches. What teams are established and can recruit or qualify for admissions preferences has already been predetermined by Brown. Thus, the interest present on campus is controlled by Brown; to then suggest that Brown must only satisfy the relative interests of students present on campus is circular."

Further, the court rejected surveying the pool of applicants to Brown. The court stated: "Using the pool of actual Brown applicants fails to consider the fact that college applicants interested in a sport not offered as a varsity sport at Brown may not even apply to Brown. A survey of actual Brown applicants would thus fail to capture the interest of those student-athletes who choose not to apply due to the limits of Brown's program offerings. To suggest that Brown need only satisfy the interests of actual applicants where Brown's selection of program offerings affects who applies to the school in the first place is illogical." 

The letter also creates a disincentive for schools to develop their women’s sports club programs -- exactly the opposite of the intent of the law. The letter explains that the presumption of compliance can be overcome only if the Office for Civil Rights finds direct and very persuasive evidence of unmet interest, such as if a college either discontinues a viable existing team or fails to upgrade a club team to varsity status when there is a recent, "broad-based petition from an existing club team." It does not explain how a student could overcome the presumption in an effort to start a new sport, such as crew, thereby freezing current inequities into place. If the club team doesn’t exist, there cannot be a "broad-based petition from an existing club team," a new standard established by the letter.

And what if the students do not respond to the e-mailed "model survey"? The letter says, "Although rates of nonresponse may be high with the e-mail procedure, under these conditions, OCR will interpret such nonresponse as a lack of interest." To get a chance to play, females have to respond to their emails, a requirement that male athletes never have to meet. 

Experts in the use of survey instruments have condemned the use of surveys of interest -- which measure attitude -- as a way to predict behavior. Culturally, men are simply more likely than women to profess an interest in sport. They are chastised if they fail to exhibit interest. It’s just the opposite for women, who are more likely to be criticized for their interest. Given their historic and current exclusion from a fair share of participation opportunities and this cultural bias, women are less likely to profess an interest in sports, even if they are interested! However, professing interest does not predict behavior and cannot be used to predict actual levels of participation when nondiscriminatory opportunities are made available. To use the results of interest surveys as a justification for withholding participation opportunities is an improper use of attitude survey methodology that the courts and policy-makers have repeatedly rejected due to irrelevance and bias. 

While every legal authority has held that this survey practice cannot be made the sole litmus test for compliance under Prong 3 of Title IX, the letter sets up just a situation, totally reversing the current standard. The letter states that only if the “model survey” is not administered will it look at the following other factors which the courts have maintained must all be examined:

  • Requests for the addition of a varsity team (even if no club team currently exists) or elevation of an existing club sport to varsity status
  • Participation in club or intramural sports
  • Participation in high school sports, amateur athletic associations and community sports leagues that operate in areas from which the institution draws its students
  • Intercollegiate varsity participation rates, as identified by national and regional intercollegiate sports governing bodies, in the institution’s competitive region

Dependence on a single survey methodology also cancels the Department of Education’s own 1979 Policy Interpretation, which states that schools are permitted to determine the athletic interests and abilities of students by nondiscriminatory methods of their choosing, provided that all of the following standards are met:

  • The process take into account the nationally increasing levels of women’s interests and abilities;
  • The methods of determining interest and ability do not disadvantage the members of an underrepresented sex;
  • The methods of determining ability take into account team performance records; and
  • The methods are responsive to the expressed interests of students capable of intercollegiate competition who are members of an underrepresented sex.

The letter and "model survey" also conflict with the department’s Title IX Athletics Investigator’s Manual, which instructs investigating officials to consider other factors reflecting interests and abilities, such as sports programs at "feeder" schools and community and regional sports programs. More importantly, the investigator’s manual states that a student survey may be a remedial tool to be used after a determination that an institution has failed the third prong; a survey is not utilized to determine compliance in the first instance, however. While a student survey may be part of a remedy to determine what sports to add when an institution’s current program fails Prong 3, it is not a proper test upon which to base compliance.

In summary, the letter and "model survey" contravene the basic principles of Title IX and its long-standing jurisprudence. Every legal authority -- including the department’s own prior policies and interpretations -- agree that surveys of existing students are an inaccurate, biased and invalid method of determining compliance under Title IX’s third prong. The letter confirms that the department has become the “fox guarding the henhouse” by thumbing its nose at the law and the female athletes it is charged with protecting.

The department, which has conducted no Title IX investigations since 2002, has now taken a startling step that protects the status quo in college sports.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is an assistant professor of law at Florida Coastal School of Law and an Olympic gold-medal swimmer. Donna Lopiano is executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is an assistant professor of law at Florida Coastal School of Law and an Olympic gold-medal swimmer. Donna Lopiano is executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation.

March Madness

Every March, university campuses embrace an enduring tradition. No, not spring break. I'm referring to college basketball, and those few weeks when our attention turns to bubbles and bracketology, office pools and buzzer-beaters, Cinderella stories and Final Four mayhem.

As we watch marquee teams and those making their only TV appearance of the year, we're constantly serenaded by marching bands furiously trumpeting fight songs during breaks in the action. Their feverish displays showcase collegiate spirit at its best. 

We might find ourselves whistling the tunes of teams surviving well into the tournament, but how many of us know the words to these fight songs? What do these verses reveal?

First off, it's evident that most songs celebrate sport and drinking, but not necessarily in that order.  Penn's battle cry of Fight on, Pennsylvania, put the ball across that line," is matched by a ditty called "Drink a Highball," which concludes with scores of literal-minded Quakers tossing slices of bread onto the court during the line, "Here's a toast to dear old Penn." Similarly, Georgia Tech pays tribute to imbibing with the line, "Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear" in its "Ramblin' Wreck" anthem. 

That statement is preceded by the claim that the singer is a "helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer."  Maine has its own "Stein Song," which exhorts students to "drink to all the happy hours, drink to the careless days!"  And New Mexico State enthusiasts promise to "buy a keg of booze" and "drink to the Aggies 'til we wobble in our shoes."

I also noticed that some songs reference other schools. Penn mentions Harvard's and Yale's colors, while neighboring Swarthmore, in its memorable "Hip, Hip, Hip, for Old Swarthmore," adds Cornell and Haverford to the mix. Lafayette promises to "dig Lehigh's grave both wide and deep, wide and deep," and "put tombstones at her head and feet, head and feet."  But Illinois manages to offend the most with this ballad:

     Don't send my boy to Harvard, a dying mother said,
     Don't send my boy to Michigan, I'd rather he were dead.
     But send my boy to Illinois, 'tis better than Cornell,
     and rather than Chicago, I would see my boy in hell.

Many songs reveal their age. Cal Tech implores its football team to "smash the line of our old enemy," yet no longer fields a football team. The only things they smash these days are atoms. Harvard students still play "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" even though the university now enrolls more women than men.  

I suppose lyrics written at the turn of the last century made sense at the time, but today they fog the brain. Folks at the University of Tennessee sing of a girl who's "half bear, the other half cat" and "wild as a mink but sweet as soda pop." It takes a St. Olaf grad to comprehend the meaning of "Um Ya Ya." That song, written as a waltz, sports the clever line, "We fight fast and furious; our team is injurious." At Bowling Green, fans celebrate a win with the meaningful refrain, "Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zoomba, Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Ze," followed naturally by "Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zoomba, Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zi." Not to be outdone, Texas A&M's "Aggie War Hymn" includes the phrases "Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck! Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!" and "Chig-gar-roo-gar-rem! Chig-gar-roo-gar-rem!" Even sophisticate Cole Porter, Yale Class of 1913, couldn't escape mental midgethood when composing literary lines for his alma mater. "Bulldog! Bulldog!" he wrote. "Bow, wow, wow!"

Another recurring theme is death.  In Chapel Hill, UNC devotees vow, "I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred. And when I die I'll be a Tar Heel dead." How morbidly comforting. Rhode Islanders follow suit ("we'll be Rhode Island dead"), as do fans at the University of Richmond, who die as spiders.

Finally, upholding their educational mission, some universities offer spelling lessons in their songs.  " 'T' is for 'Temple,' " sing the folks in Philly. Can you guess what the "U" is for? Across town, "V" stands for "Villanova" as well as "victory," while "B" stands for "blue" and "Double-U" refers, of course, to "white."

So when you tune in to watch this year's tournament, ignore the game itself for a moment and listen carefully to the bands. They're responsible for the true march madness.

Mark J. Drozdowski is director of corporate, foundation and government relations at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H.

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