Every now and then I’ll point to some casualties of Title IX here on the blog — usually men’s teams that get sacrificed in the name of gender equity. But there is another, more subtle way that schools work toward Title IX’s proportionality standard (having the gender ratio of their athletes match the gender ratio of the overall student population) — roster management. This article presents a good example of roster management at work at Boise State, complete with a great definition of the practice: “Roster management entails promoting walk-on opportunities in women’s sports and limiting men’s rosters to the minimum necessary to compete for championships.”
So, instead of cutting entire teams, schools simply cut roster spots on men’s teams. This is especially pronounced if you look at sports with both a male and female equivalent. Look at sports like soccer, swimming, track and field, and you’ll inevitably notice that the women’s teams carry rosters far bigger than the men’s teams. While that isn’t as bad as cutting a sport wholesale, it’s still denying individual athletes an opportunity to compete. And if women need a certain number of players to play a sport, presumably men would benefit from that same level as well. The marginal cost of such “walk-on” players is very small, considering that they are non-scholarship, so schools don’t even save a lot of money through the practice. But it does help even out their participant numbers for Title IX purposes.