WVU Stays Focused on Gender Equity

  • By Katie Kane
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  • July 26, 2013 02:03 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at West Virginia University continues to remain Title IX compliant with the recent announcement of the reintroduction of men’s golf for the 2015-16 season, as explained by Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Terri Howes.

In 2012, the NCAA published, “Equity and Title IX in Intercollegiate Athletics: A Practical Guide for Colleges and Universities” to give a better understanding of Title IX. According to the guide, “in 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs, including athletics, and requires that each institution designate at least one Title IX coordinator to oversee compliance. Title IX measures equity in athletics in three distinct areas: (1) participation; (2) scholarships; and (3) other benefits, including the provision of equipment and supplies, scheduling, travel, tutoring, coaching, locker rooms, facilities, medical and training facilities and services, publicity, recruiting and support services.”

The guide further explains that Title IX is broken down into a three-part test. The first prong is about participation opportunities proportionate to enrollment, the second part is history and continuing practice of program expansion and the third part is effective accommodation of athletics interests and abilities. Therefore, of the three parts, one must be met in order for a school to comply with Title IX.

“I feel very strongly here at WVU, we meet the first prong, and then we meet the second prong as well, regarding history,” Howes explains.

In order to be compliant with the first part, the athletics participation rate of the under-represented sex must be substantially proportionate to the school’s full-time undergraduate enrollment. Based off the last published report by the Equity and Athletics Disclosure Act for the 2011-12 academic year, WVU is 55 percent male undergraduate students and 45 percent female undergraduate students. While a majority of athletic departments must work to maintain substantial proportionality by adding women’s sports, WVU is different in that the under-represented sex within the athletic sport teams was males.

“The big thing to keep in mind here are the words ‘under-represented sex.’ The big point I think a lot of people do not understand is that this is not a women’s issue. I would say for a majority of institutions in the country, it becomes an issue for females, but at WVU that is not the case,” Howes says.

The Mountaineers are very similar to their Big 12 counterparts when it comes to the athletics participation rate. In the fall of 2011, participation figures for similar Big 12 schools were as follows, Iowa State was 56 percent male and 44 percent female, Kansas was 50/50, Kansas State was 52/47, Oklahoma State was 51/49 and Texas Tech was 55/44.

“Bottom line is you do the right thing. It’s not a female issue, it’s not a male issue—you do the right thing by your athletes. We monitor this diligently—all three prongs in every action we take as a department,” Howes says. “We feel we are in compliance at this time, and because these numbers will fluctuate, we monitor it and look at it continually.”

Currently in year two of its membership with the Big 12 Conference, WVU had the task of not only staying Title IX compliant, but also gaining compliance within the conference. The Big 12 Conference requires sponsorship a minimum of six men’s and six women’s sports. WVU currently sponsors five of the recognized men’s sports and 10 of the recognized women’s sports.

“With this in mind, when we become fully-funded in the Big 12, that was when it was decided that we would add a men’s sport,” Howes explains. “We looked at every men’s sport that is available within the conference that would have been acceptable that we don’t currently sponsor, which includes tennis, indoor and outdoor track/cross country and golf. The rationale to add men’s golf was to meet conference requirements, fiscal feasibility, expenses, making sure we were maintaining compliance with Title IX and gender equity and student interest and sustainability.

“Usually you have a club sport that is very well established and recognized, and that shows that there is an interest in the area. There is a very active and functional golf club here. They travel, they have a competitive schedule on the East coast and have been in existence for several years, so it is established. Another factor was availability of viable competition, and there’s a lot of men’s golf in this area. The high school and youth participation in the state is very high—higher than cross country, which is not the national norm, but it is the reality in this state. Facility and equipment requirements and personnel needs were other factors that we looked into as well.”

With the reintroduction of men’s golf in 2015, West Virginia University will have 18 intercollegiate sports, maintaining substantial proportionality with its 55 percent male and 45 percent female population.