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Has Title IX brought diversity to college sports, or has it merely swapped one form of discrimination for another?
When UC Berekley announced last week that it was dropping men's gymnastics and baseball as planned but would not go through with its previously announced plans to cut women's lacrosse and women's gymnastics and downgrade the status of rugby from varsity to club sport, disgruntled Cal supporters cried foul as they tried to parse the reasons.
Cal said it had received about $13 million in pledges from a private Save Cal Sports fundraising drive, of which the university would be able to use about $8 million for rugby, women's gymnastics, and women's lacrosse for the next seven to 10 years. It was reported that had Cal cut the two women's sports, it would have had to add another 50 athletes to its other women's teams and cut another 80 men from its rosters in order to comply with Title IX, the federal legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools.
Baseball supporters were the most outspoken in their criticism of the university's announcement.
"Cal did not make this decision," former Cal pitcher Doug Nickle said. "A small handful of people entrusted with protecting the students and traditions at Cal made this decision. We are all being held hostage and my hope is that those 'in charge' will finally join us as we fight for all that is good at Cal."
Cal has had baseball for 119 years and gymnastics for 89 years. The baseball team plays its first game Friday, February 18, against Utah on Evans Diamond. The men's gymnastics team competes at Stanford the same evening. They beat Stanford last weekend in the Gold Country Classic in Oakland.
Pledging to continue to raise money to restore the baseball program, Nickle said, "Cal baseball has been scapegoated in this process. Save Cal Baseball has worked tirelessly on behalf of all five affected programs. While we know that Save Cal Baseball led the way in the Save Cal Sports effort, the university has turned its back on our efforts and is now shielding themselves behind the long-term implications of Title IX."
Ahh, Title IX. Designed to guarantee opportunities for girls and women, it's been used by many a heavy-handed administrator as their justification for smashing non-football, non-revenue producing programs into obliteration. With Division I schools each allocating 85 scholarships for football players, there are few scholarships left for men in other sports. The result is that schools tend to field team sports for women, such as basketball, softball, and soccer, while men's individuals sports, such as gymnastics, get dropped.
"I sort of felt betrayed by the university, just because they said it was a sort of packaged deal," men's gymnastics captain Daniel Geri told the Daily Californian. "They were either going to reinstate all five sports or reinstate none."
Since 1988, 106 colleges have dropped men's wrestling; there are just 83 schools left in Division I wrestling. Forty-eight schools have dropped men's gymnastics in that same span: when Cal drops it next year, there will be just 15 Division I programs left, compared with 64 in women's gymnastics. Stanford is the only men's gymnastics program in the Pac-10.
So, what's the big deal, right? We're talking about a few gymnasts and wrestlers after all: guys who think 5-foot-8 is tall.
When gymnastics or wrestling programs disappear, the little guys squawk but the world seems not even to notice. The headline in USA Today last week summed it up with that publication's usual penchant for oversimplifying anything into seven words or less: "Cal to keep women's sports, kill baseball."
Gymnastics isn't much more than a footnote or afterthought.
And therein lies the unaddressed flaw in the administrative misinterpretation of the intent of Title IX: diversity of opportunity. By channeling our choices into big-number team sports, sports administrators leave those who don't fit in either physically or psychologically out in the cold.
To learn about continuing efforts to raise money for Cal men's gymnastics and baseball, visit www.savecalsports.com.