The University of Delaware announced this morning that it is downgrading men’s cross country and outdoor track and field from varsity to club status. The reason? Title IX compliance. The school explained as much in a statement:
“We explored every avenue in search of alternatives to this action,” athletic director Bernard Muir said. “After weighing several possibilities, we concluded that this plan is our most viable. We found ourselves facing two options: Either we had to continue the periodic expansion of programming for women in order to be responsive to their interest and ability, or adjust the current offerings to provide equitable and substantially proportionate participation opportunities for our men and women. Continued expansion of our Athletics program is not feasible in this financial climate, and given that reality, the University made the only decision it could.”
So, like so many schools before them, Delaware opted with the safest method of Title IX compliance: proportionality. But why would that mean cuts to men’s teams? A quick look at the gender balance of Delaware’s student population make that clear: 57 percent of Delaware’s students are female. That means that, under proportionality, 57 percent of their athletes must also be female. When a school is faced with those kind of numbers, cutting men’s programs starts to make a lot of sense, even if it doesn’t quite seem fair. That is the unfortunate reality of Title IX compliance in the modern era: with rising female enrollments and an emphasis on proportionality, the easiest route to compliance is to cut men’s teams. It need not be the case — the type of Title IX reform that we support here at IWF would maintain the spirit and intent of Title IX while providing schools with more options for compliance so that we can finally move away from the rigid quotas of proportionality to a more commonsensical and flexible system that more accurately reflects student interests.