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February 9 2011

Cuts at Cal

Allison Kasic

In the fall, the University of California, Berkeley announced that it was cutting five varsity sports teams (women's lacrosse and gymnastics and men's rugby, baseball, and gymnastics). Now that New York Times is reporting that the school might change course by reinstating some or all of those teams, with the school expected to make an announcement on the future of the teams tomorrow.

Intertwined with the concerns of fundraising and public support are concerns over Title IX compliance. It's hard to read the NYT's account of the decisions facing Cal and not realize the extent to which Title IX has become little more than a numbers game. Consider the roster management techniques that the school is considering:

Without the five teams, the university, based on numbers it provided, will have to add 50 spots for women and eliminate 80 spots for men to meet Title IX requirements. That is in addition to the more than 100 male athletes already cut when men's rugby, baseball and gymnastics were dropped as varsity sports...

To comply with Title IX, officials have said they plan to trim male rosters while expanding the size of female teams, a practice known in college athletics as roster management...

Mellis [a school official] said that by next fall, the department planned to limit its male rosters to a total of 377, and to expand the female participants to 393. According to federal education statistics, Cal had 461 male participants and 341 female participants in the 2009-10 academic year, not counting the athletes on the eliminated teams. Mellis said this year's participation numbers were comparable to last year's.

Why all the concern over the number of roster spots? That would be because of the proportionality standard that I talk about so much here on the blog. Instead of focusing on student interest and local preferences, Cal is effectively forced to shuffle the numbers around to meet a government-approved gender ratio. I'll report back on the results once Cal announces its decision tomorrow. For the sake of the athletes involved, I hope that the teams are reinstated. But regardless of the school's decision, it's hard to see the concern over Title IX compliance going away anytime soon.

UPDATE: The school's announcement has been delayed.



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