United States Legislature Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…”
It is a simple law designed to do a simple thing – give women the same opportunities as men.
But accomplishing that legal ideal within its intercollegiate athletic department is a goal the University of Maine has historically found very difficult to achieve. In fact, Maine was sued over its lack of compliance with Title IX in the early 1980s.
Concern over its continuing vulnerability to such a suit is one reason UM administrators have recommended dropping two men’s sports programs – swimming and tennis – as part of the current overall budget reduction, according to Maine Athletic Director Dr. Kevin White.
By dropping the two programs, Maine would reduce the number of its men’s programs from 11 to nine, bringing the department into line with the nine women’s athletic programs it offers.
Compliance with Title IX isn’t as simple as evening up the number of athletic teams available to men and women. It also involves making sure the ratio of male to female athletes reflects the male-to-female ratio of the whole university, and that the resources put toward men’s and women’s programs are proportional.
That’s where Maine has a problem, even with cutting the two men’s programs.
According to the UM admissions office, 5,680 male undergraduate students enrolled at Maine last fall, along with 5,511 women. The male-to-female student ratio is close to 1/1.
But there are currently 396 males competing in intercollegiate athletics compared with only 169 women participants. The male-to-female athlete ratio is 2.3/1.
The dropping of men’s swimming and tennis would reduce the number of male athletes by 34, but still leave a better than 2/1 male-to-female ratio, leaving Maine well short of compliance with Title IX.
Compounding Maine’s problem: according to a report made public by the athletic department, men’s programs currently receive 75 percent of financial resources compared to 25 percent for women.
White sees little choice but to cut men’s programs as Maine strives to achieve compliance with Title IX.
“Had we dropped one women’s program and three men’s programs, it would take us closer to the dollar amount we need to reduce the budget by,” White said Monday. “We’re now 75-25 (in support). By taking three (men’s programs) to one (women’s) we may drift to 80-20. Once we do that, if you go back and look at our track record, boy are we vulnerable (to a suit).”
Maine is by no means alone in its compliance problems. According to Merrly Dean Baker, assistant executive director of the NCAA, many universities across the nation are still working toward compliance with Title IX.
“In 1988, congress passed the equal rights reconstruction act which reinstituted the philosophy and mandates of Title IX. A lot of schools which haven’t looked at compliance are now looking. And a lot of schools have experienced some slippage. If they do a review and find they’re not in compliance, they are given a period of time to come into compliance,” Baker said.
White said Maine is working to achieve complete compliance “over 5-10 years.” Toward that effort, there has been an ongoing Title IX self-study in the athletic department with the assistance of a professional consultant. Maine is also starting a varsity women’s soccer program.
In the meantime, every move the department makes will keep compliance with Title IX in mind.
“Any kind of action we take we better be sensitive to the disparity. We’re being mandated to,” White said. University of Maine Sports Comparison of Participants 1990 Intercollegiate Athletics
MEN Teams 11 Participants 396 Scholarship recipients 121.5 Pct. on scholarship 30
WOMEN Teams 9 Participants 169 Scholarship recipients 34.7 Pct. on scholarship 20
Men receive approximately 75 percent of total expense budget while women receive 25 percent. Source: UM Department of Athletics