Last week, the West Virginia University student newspaper reported on some recent changes to the school’s athletics program:
In 2003, then-West Virginia University President David Hardesty asked the athletic department to develop a strategic plan for the future.
Among the list of tasks athletic director Ed Pastilong and staff compiled were placing more of an emphasis on football, building better facilities and making more money – $500,000 more.
To implement these ideas, the department decided to make athletics cuts.
“We could’ve just chopped every team’s budget a little bit and just water-down the entire program, but we looked at all the options and this was the one we came up with,” said associate athletic director Russ Sharp.
As a result, the rifle, men’s tennis, men’s cross country and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams were cut from the budget in 2003.
But because 54 of 56 of those athletes were male, the athletic department was criticized for making cuts to meet Title IX requirements.
“We got a lot of flak,” Sharp said. “A lot of people, because they were all men’s sports, pointed to (Title IX). People went there even though it wasn’t the reason.
“The reality of it is, we didn’t do that for Title IX reasons.”
It is heartening to see athletics department officials not scapegoat Title IX as the reason for cuts in men’s sports. Associate AD Sharp lays out the facts – the school’s president wanted more of an emphasis on football, so they had to cut some men’s teams to accommodate the increase in spending on football.
Later in the article, Sharp admits that Title IX factored slightly into the decision to cut the men’s sports, saying, “We recognized at the time that any decision we made … we couldn’t drop three women’s sports. We couldn’t make our Title IX position worse.” This statement is consistent with the argument that feminists and supporters of women’s sports have been making for years: that it is expensive men’s sports that hurt the chances of smaller men’s sports succeeding, not offering women equal opportunity to participate in athletics.