Title IX, passed in 1972 at the height of the women’s rights movement, banned sex discrimination in any federally financed education program. It threw into sharp relief the unequal treatment of male and female athletes on college campuses.
Over the next 40 years, the law spawned a cultural transformation: the number of women competing in college sports has soared by more than 500 percent — to 186,000 a year from fewer than 30,000 in 1972.
But as women have grown to 57 percent of American colleges’ enrollment, athletic programs have increasingly struggled to field a proportional number of female athletes. And instead of pouring money into new women’s teams or trimming the rosters of prized football teams, many colleges are turning to a sleight of hand known as roster management. According to a review of public records from more than 20 colleges and universities by The New York Times, and an analysis of federal participation statistics from all 345 institutions in N.C.A.A. Division I — the highest level of college sports — many are padding women’s team rosters with underqualified, even unwitting, athletes. They are counting male practice players as women. And they are trimming the rosters of men’s teams…
Each year, institutions must report their male and female participation numbers to the Department of Education. And even though the numbers would not be used in a formal investigation, many colleges manipulate them to avoid bringing about one. The embarrassment that comes with a public inquiry or a lawsuit can motivate them to do what it takes to stay under the radar.
Shrinking budgets also spur universities to use these tactics, said Jake Crouthamel, a former Syracuse athletic director. “It’s easier to add more people on a roster than it is to start a new sport,” he said.
Yet football, the pride of many universities and a draw for alumni, rarely faces cuts. Theaverage Division I football team went from 95 players 30 years ago to 111 players in 2009-10….
According to the most current federal numbers, women make up 53 percent of the student body at Division I institutions yet only 46 percent of all athletes. And that discrepancy does not take into account all the tactics used to boost the numbers artificially.
Roster management came under scrutiny last year when a federal judge ruled thatQuinnipiac University
in Connecticut had violated Title IX by engaging in several questionable practices, including requiring that women cross-country runners join the indoor and outdoor track teams so they could be counted three times. The judge found earlier that Quinnipiac had been padding women’s rosters by counting players, then cutting them a few weeks later. Quinnipiac athletic officials declined to comment, but in its appeal, the university said the judge’s conclusion that women were required to be on all three teams was not supported by evidence.