Title IX keeps the ball rolling for women’s collegiate sports

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Nicole Caporaso

Appalachian State University has storied periods of athletic history, with many teams having varying degrees of success throughout the years dating back to the early 1900s.

A large difference between the history of women’s athletics and men’s athletics at the university is that women’s sports teams did not begin until the 1960s, with the first official team being the women’s field hockey team in 1968, said Debbie Richardson, senior associate athletics director.

“There were women playing on teams, basketball teams probably, in the 1930s and 1940s,” Richardson said. “They only played three or four games and they definitely didn’t have scholarships. That didn’t happen until sometime in the 1970s that women were even allowed to have scholarships.”

In 1972, Title IX was passed, prohibiting any discrimination based on sex in all federally funded educational programs and activities, which includes, but is not limited to, athletics.

“Title IX is a lot broader than people think it is,” said Bindu Jayne, associate vice chancellor for diversity. “Title IX really is focused on gender equity as it relates to every aspect of education. I think a lot of the misconceptions are the assumptions that it only relates to sports.”

Before the implementation of Title IX, women participation in intercollegiate athletics hovered around fewer than 32,000 participants, but has increased to over 193,000 today, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

It is required by Title IX that Appalachian and other universities financially aided by the federal government treat male and female athletes equally by demonstrating fulfillment of one of three possible prongs that show the university’s effort to create evenly matched opportunity.

Jayne said universities typically abide by prong one or three of Title IX, which requires the percentages of male and female athletes to be about proportionate to the percentages of male and female students attending the school, or requires the university to have an athletics program that effectively accommodates the underrepresented sex, respectively.

Though she has not received notice of any formal Title IX complaints from students regarding the athletics department, Jayne said she has had a few informal inquiries regarding athletic concerns. Richardson said she also is unaware of any Title IX athletics complaints regarding the university.

According to “Debunking the Myths about Title IX and Athletics” by the National Women’s Law Center, despite Title IX’s success, women’s programs trail behind men’s, with women receiving 28 percent of the total money spent on athletics and 42 percent of the total athletic scholarship dollars.

“While more than half of the students at NCAA schools are women, they receive only 44 percent of the athletic participation opportunities,” according to the publication. “At the typical Division I-FBS school, for every dollar spent on women’s sports, about two and a half dollars are spent on men’s sports.”

Mike Flynn, assistant athletics director, said there is a total of 447 student athletes for the 2014-2015 year, with 277 males and 170 females according to the current rosters, though these numbers do not reflect the final numbers for the year.

When it comes to what sport is played and the sex of the athletes, Richardson said the athletes at Appalachian are taken care of equally.

“They all get what [they’re] allowed to have and what’s needed for their sport,” Richardson said. “Golfers may need to have their own golf clubs, for softball and baseball they might have to buy their own gloves, but for the most part everyone’s got everything they need, whether they’re a walk-on or a scholarship [athlete].”

Regarding Title IX, Richardson said there is at least one project the university needs to take up fixing, but Appalachian has been making every effort it can to treat all athletes the same.

“We have some women’s locker rooms that don’t have walls in them, their lockers are their walls right now,” Richardson said. “Field hockey didn’t have their preferred surface for a field, but that was finished this fall and they now have their own field, and it’s the surface the NCAA prefers them to play on.”

Additionally, Richardson said not all Appalachian sports teams, both women’s and men’s, are fully funded to the maximum amount the NCAA allows.

While athletes, no matter their sex, are treated by the university equally, there is one inequality Richardson noticed.

“I would say it’s very frustrating to me to see as many people come to watch men’s games and not come…to watch women,” Richardson said. “We have a new marketing director who is doing a really good job of marketing all of our sports, not just football and men’s and women’s basketball.”

Mackenzie LaSure, junior journalism major and member of the women’s tennis team, said her experience as a college athlete at Appalachian has been rewarding and that gender equity is prevalent regarding the university’s athletics.

“I think that has to do with the fact that students realize that no matter what your gender, you are seen as an Appalachian athlete representing the school,” LaSure said. “You are held to higher standards than most because of that as well, no matter which team. Yes, some sports teams may be seen as more important by certain people based on an entertainment level, but for the most part, all athletes are seen as one.”

While LaSure said the university has always treated her fairly and equally as an athlete, society sometimes has a different way of treating women who participate in athletics.

“To me, many view women in sports as sacrificial and participating in sports as a female means burdens put on your life where men in sports is more of a lifestyle,” LaSure said. “It isn’t necessarily frowned upon to be a woman athlete, but not being a male athlete is often thought of strange and can be frowned upon.”

Hailey Kerr, senior psychology major and member of the women’s volleyball team, said that when it comes to athletics, she believes gender stereotyping is becoming less frequent among the younger generations, but she does experience a rare circumstance of pushback outside of the university setting.

“When I go home and lift at my old fitness gym, I have to lift before 5 a.m. to avoid the men who approach me trying to correct my form, workout program, or how much weight I’m lifting because I am not running on a treadmill with all the other girls,” Kerr said. “As a female athlete, it’s expected that I don’t know how to lift correctly, should not lift as much weight as I do and should not attempt olympic lifts outside of back squats.”

Kerr refers to these instances as ignorance, but said the Appalachian athletic community has always been respectful of one another’s efforts and pursuits.

“Overall, any challenges I face as a female athlete are centered around the idea that I do not have any ownership over the sports domain and am a guest relying on men’s good will,” Kerr said. “Where in fact, I am an intelligent, ambitious, tough athlete who happens to be female, a perspective encouraged and persistent in my time at App State.”

While Appalachian student athletes have a combined GPA of 3.0, Richardson said, it is the female athletes that “tend to outshine the men’s teams academically.”

According to a Fall 2014 Team GPA report from Richardson, women’s volleyball had the highest GPA of all athletics teams, with a 3.54 semester GPA for Fall 2014. The top four teams with the highest GPA for that semester, were all women’s teams, following volleyball with women’s soccer, women’s golf and field hockey.

Of the top ten Appalachian athletics teams with the highest semester GPA for Fall 2014, nine out of the ten were women’s teams.

Story: Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter