Even with the budget concerns at Cal, I would have been very surprised had the women’s teams not been reinstated. According the participation numbers quoted in the NYT earlier this week, Cal wasn’t proportional (the gender balance of their sports teams didn’t match the gender balance of their overall student body). That would have left Cal vulnerable to a lawsuit from one of the cut women’s teams. Judging by recent court history, the school would have been expected to lose such a lawsuit. So, facing that potential scenario, it makes sense from the school’s perspective to keep the women’s programs. The fact that they were able to raise a lot of funds for the programs makes the decision even easier.
On the men’s side, I’m pleasantly surprised that the school was able to save the rugby team. It would have been very easy in this circumstance to hang all three men’s teams out to dry — keeping rugby certainly doesn’t help their proportionality numbers going forward. It’s a sad state of affairs, but that’s what Title IX has been reduced to: a numbers game. That’s likely not very comforting to the baseball players and gymnasts who won’t have teams at the end of the season. And it shouldn’t be. Reducing Title IX to a rigid numbers game doesn’t reflect local interest and abilities. It doesn’t reflect which teams a school could be most competitive at. And it certainly doesn’t reflect discrimination, which is, after all, what Title IX is supposed to prevent in the first place.
So, here’s the question going forward: will Cal continue with the roster management techniques outlined in the NYT piece or stay the course with their current program numbers? The players and coaches of the reinstated teams are surely very happy today. But the coaches of all the other men’s sports with rumored roster cuts this week? I imagine they are still very much on edge. The only way to change that reality is to institute meaningful Title IX reform such that emphasis is placed on the local environment and not proportionality.