Plan will impact Title IX compliance
In Focus Writer
With 36 of the 64 new scholarships going to women's sports, the University has decided that it's time for its female athletes to wear the pants on this campus.
Gender equality has become a big concern for many people in college sports, especially at Notre Dame, a school with a massive football program and a growing respect for its women's athletes.
"We will be providing significantly more opportunities for women's and Olympic sports as a result of these additions," athletic director Kevin White said in a prepared statement. "We also will be strengthening our gender equity numbers as we look forward to going through the NCAA certification process again next year."
"Title IX was always a part of our discussions during our decision," said Missy Conboy, associate athletic director for athletic department legal issues.
Instituted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding. Though it does not require a school have a male-to-female athlete participation equal to that of enrollment, the University must be striving for a "pattern of expansion and growth" towards equality, said Sandy Barbour, associate athletic director for compliance and administration.
Women currently constitute 45 percent of Notre Dame's enrollment, but only 38 percent of the varsity sports scholarships. By the time the scholarships are in place, that number will rise to 42.
"To some degree, it's [Title IX] a moving target," Barbour said.
Complying with Title IX happens in one of a few ways, Conboy said. It could mean that a schoolÕs athlete participation mirrors its enrollment percentage or that a school is looking to increase the number of its women's programs. In the case of Notre Dame, though, she said, it means always attempting to meet student interest in the athletic program.
"With the sports that we've added and the scholarships we've awarded ... we feel that we have continued to make historical strides toward [Title IX compliance]," she said.
When deciding to create more scholarships, athletic department representatives worked with the Office of Admissions and other administrators to project future enrollment, financial need and athletic participation.
With administrators and athletic officials mulling over the legal and financial issues dealing with the scholarships, coaches and athletes are excited about the possibilities.
"It will have a profound impact with our success in the Big East," said Joe Piane, head coach of women's cross country/track and field. Six of the 36 scholarships will go to Piane's female athletes.
The scholarships will no doubt aid in his recruiting efforts, Piane said. "Now we'll be getting to a level playing field with [our competitors]."
"Of course in the long run it will help us, thatÕs for sure," said Yves Auriol, head coach of the women's fencing team.
The women's team has nearly 25 players, Auriol said, and three scholarships split among five or six fencers.
"Sometimes you are stuck looking at two great athletes and you can just recruit one because you don't have enough financial help," he said.
"I think that just with any type of school when youÕre able to bring in more recruits, your team will be more well-rounded," said Tameisha King, a sophomore member of the women's track and field team. "We can recruit better by having more money to work with."
Attempts to achieve Title IX compliance have led the athletic department to make some sacrifices, including disbanding the men's wrestling team in 1992, but administrators say that won't likely happen again.
"I think we're going to have to be more concerned with if we're ever going to need to increase more women's sports," than with reinstating or adding men's sports, Conboy said.
For the last two years the admissions and athletic departments have surveyed recently enrolled students, asking them about their athletic interests.
"It's really an effort to monitor if there are unmet needs out there," Conboy said. "That could give us an idea if we're meeting the interest of [undergraduate students]. I think we need to survey more [before thinking of adding women's sports]."
All News Stories for Wednesday, January 31, 2001