Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is the landmark legislation passed to provide equal educational opportunities for women in many areas, including athletics. While it has fostered the growth of women’s collegiate athletic teams, the legislation is often blamed when men’s sports are cut. Between 1990 and 2020, NCAA DI women’s teams grew by 60% while the overall number of DI men’s teams decreased. When a men’s team is cut and announced in a public forum, it is not in the best interest of the athletic director to admit that the budget resources would be reallocated to men’s basketball, football, or capital projects associated with men’s basketball or football. Rather, it is more advantageous to acknowledge that women’s sports ought not to be cut and, in fact, must be increased to remain compliant with Title IX. Thus, the narrative that Title IX is to blame for cutting men’s sports began.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) interprets Title IX compliance with respect to athletics in terms of three broad areas:
1) athletic financial assistance
2) other program areas, and
3) accommodation of interests and abilities.
Compliance with Title IX often requires colleges and universities to sponsor additional women’s athletic teams yet does not require dollar for dollar spending. Moreover, in the 1996 Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance the OCR acknowledged that there is nothing in Title IX requiring schools to eliminate men’s teams and that when schools negotiate compliance agreements, solutions need not involve cutting sports.
In our recently published article in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, we sought to understand what happened to the budget resources allocated to a men’s DI team when that team was cut. Although reports specifying where institutions plan to reallocate funds when they make the decision to eliminate a men’s team are scarce, athletic directors have identified budget constraints, Title IX, and declining interest as the main reasons why programs were cut. Meanwhile, football and men’s basketball continue to dominate the college sport financial landscape in program budgets, facility improvements, and coaches’ salaries. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine changes to the budgets of women’s athletics, men’s basketball, and football when a DI intercollegiate men’s team was eliminated.
Analyses indicated that when a men’s sport program had been eliminated, the budget resources of the eliminated program were reallocated primarily to the budgets of men’s basketball and football rather than to the women’s athletics budget. The argument of athletic administrators that decisions to cut programs were based on the need to comply with Title IX was not supported by the data and contradicted the prevailing view that men’s sports were cut to fund women’s sports to comply with Title IX.
The NCAA’s Director for Research of Data Management provided a list of member institutions that eliminated a Division I men’s team between 2007 and 2014. Eighty-five institutions were included in the study. Data were obtained from the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) database for the four years before and after the elimination of a men’s sport between 2007 and 2014, resulting in 15 years of budgetary data. The EADA is a federal law passed in 1994 and requires higher education institutions to disclose information about varsity teams, financial resources, and personnel. Data are updated annually and are available to the public through the EADA database. Specific budgetary data obtained from the EADA website included the:
1) Grand Total Expenses
2) Total Men’s Team Expenses
3) Total Women’s Team Expenses
4) Not Allocated by Gender/Sport Expenses
5) Football Men’s Team Expenses
6) Basketball Men’s Team Expenses
Data obtained from the EADA website were used to create eight new variables:
1) Total Athletic Budget Before
2) Total Athletic Budget After
3) Percent of Women’s Budget Before
4) Percent of Women’s Budget After
5) Percent of Basketball Before
6) Percent of Basketball After
7) Percent of Football Before
8) Percent of Football After
Variable data corresponded to specific institutions in the study rather than institutions as a group.
A two-step process was used to create Total Athletic Budget Before and Total Athletic Budget After. First, the EADA item, Not Allocated by Gender/Sport Expenses, was subtracted from Grand Total Expenses. Second, the mean value of the four years prior to a sport being eliminated was calculated resulting in the creation of Total Athletic Budget Before. Similarly, the mean value of the four years after a sport was eliminated, beginning the year it was eliminated, was calculated creating the variable Total Athletic Budget After.
To create variables 3-8, the mean values of the corresponding EADA items were calculated for the four years prior to a sport being eliminated and again for the four years after a sport was eliminated, beginning the year it was eliminated. Secondly, the percentage of the mean value was determined as it related to the total athletic budget (before or after). For example, the mean value of the EADA item Total Women’s Team Expenses of the four years prior to cutting a sport was used to complete the first step in creating Percent of Women’s Budget Before. The second step in creating the Percent of Women’s Budget Before variable was to calculate what percent it comprised of the Total Athletic Budget Before. This process resulted in the creation of the remaining variables.
The newly created variables enabled us to conduct paired sample t-tests to compare budgets between the four years prior to when a men’s sport had been cut and the four years after the sport had been eliminated for the budgets of women’s athletics, men’s basketball, and football. Results indicated a statistically significant increase in men’s basketball budgets (t = -1.727; p = .002) and football (t = -3.051; p = .003) budgets after a men’s program had been cut whereas an increase in women’s athletic budget was not statistically significant (t = -1.638; p = .053).
On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the results of this study reflect much of the discourse that has taken place concerning its impact on gender equity. Much of the criticism that Title IX has received for its apparent impact on decision makers being forced to cut men’s programs to restore financial equity in school budgets was not supported in the data.
In the current era of highly paid “celebrity” coaches (often in football and men’s basketball), the traditional chain of command when it comes to any decision may not come from the traditional “top down” format. While examining the literature review, there was much encouragement during the publication stage to look at stakeholder theory, which is frequently used to examine the impacts on Title IX and NIL legislation. One might reasonably surmise that it is stakeholders with the most power and influence who play a big role in what type of decision is made when it comes to athletics department budgets. Stakeholders with power and influence exerted considerable influence at Stanford University when it came to decisions on its program cuts.
Analyses focusing on the men’s basketball budgets and football budgets revealed these budgets continued to increase overall, with a significant number of institutions experiencing a gain after a men’s program had been cut. However, women’s athletic budgets did not see a statistically significant increase when a men’s program was eliminated. The argument that decisions to cut programs are based on the need to comply with Title IX was not supported in the data, whether these athletic programs have football teams or not. Likewise, arguments that it was Title IX that forced athletic departments to cut men’s teams and scholarship opportunities were not supported by the data.
When considering cutting a sport, athletic administrators should be guided by the mission statement of the higher educational institute. College athletics have been a big part of higher education since it first appeared in 1852. However, concern about the rise of commercialism in college athletics has long been reported, beginning with the 1929 Carnegie Report on College Athletics. A value-based decision that reflects the educational mission rather than a business approach may provide insight into other options than eliminating a sport. If it is determined a sport will be cut, we advise athletic administrators to take responsibility for the action rather than putting the blame on Title IX.