The University of Southern California’s men’s swimming team almost became the latest victim of Title IX enforcement when they were recently informed by the USC Athletics Department that they would have to cut five members of the team since they outnumbered the women’s swim team 37-26.
Rather than just take the Athletic Department’s decision in stride the men’s swim team senior captain Kazu Miyahara along with other members of both the men’s and women’s swimmimg teams went to work to recruit additional females.
Miyahara created a Facebook group, “Save the Men’s Team, Join the Women’s Team (Swimming!),” that encouraged female students to join even they only had a remote interest or weren’t sure of the time commitment.
The result was that 119 members joined the group (students love joining groups) netting 15 interested swimmers. That was more than the women’s team needed so the coaches had to decide who was really serious about joining the team and attending morning practices. To be a swimmer at this level requires far more dedication than in high school and can be grueling at times.
According to the Daily Trojan some freshmen on the men’s team were especially worried that they would lose their spots if there were any cuts and morale was very low.
At least they still have a team. Thanks in part to Title IX Arizona State University eliminated its men’s swimming and tennis teams as well as wrestling last May.
Miyahara told the Trojan that for him, the law has caused some frustration.
“I do blame Title IX somewhat, and there have been some negative effects of it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to cut people who are interested in swimming. It’s a hard sport. If there are people interested and committed enough to do it, we definitely want them on the team.”
Until now I doubt that Miyahara had paid much attention to Title IX because it didn’t affect him. But now that he has seen the destructive effects of this law he can see how easily it can destroy a sport. Even though the team would have been able to continue with the proposed cuts it was likely to only be the beginning. All this does is but the swim team one more year. Next year they could face even bigger cuts unless they step up their efforts to recruit more women. The team is on the Athletic Department’s hit list and despite 9 NCAA championships it may only be a matter of time before the last male swimmer takes one final lap in the pool.
This case has added a new wrinkle (at least for me) to the complex issue of Title IX compliance. Normally colleges and universities take a more global view by adding up the total number of athletes by gender in all sports and then determining whether or not they are complying with the law. To single out a specific sport and force both men’s and women’s teams to have an equal number of athletes only perpetuates the myth that men and women are equally interested in participating in sports.
Jessica Gavora points out in her book Tilting the Playing Field that Brandi Chastain whose penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s World Cup lifted her team to victory was the product of independent youth leagues which give girls the opportunity to play without the rigid rules of Title IX.
Chastain is just one example that Title IX is both unnecessary and onerous and that women can thrive and succeed without the extra “help” that the law provides.
Beyond the collegiate money sports of football and basketball it will take an Olympian effort to save the non revenue generating men’s sports from extinction at the rate we are going.