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3Qs: Violating the spirit of Title IX

Pressured to comply with Title IX, many collegiate athletic programs have resorted to deception by padding women’s rosters with under-qualified athletes, no-show athletes and male practice players counted as women, according to an in-depth investigation by the New York Times. Dave Czesniuk, senior associate director of Sport in Society, a Northeastern University research center, weighs in on the impact of technically legal roster management practices on fans, athletes and athletic programs.

Why do collegiate athletic programs practice roster management as opposed to, say, starting new sports teams for female athletes?

Roster management is a lazy attempt made by athletic administrators to manage their image rather than cultivate a culture of excellence for their student-athletes. If coaches and athletic directors can be assertive, deliberate and consistent in establishing the principles and norms by which they will lead, then they would not have to react with inadequate and unjust measures like roster-padding to appear to be in compliance with governing standards.

But establishing such principles and norms takes time and attention, and some athletic directors are unwilling to invest the effort. It is bad enough that more women’s sports teams aren’t established to create real opportunities for female students, but what’s worse is when teams enlist male non-athletes to compete in women’s sports practices with female athletes. This completely undermines the scholarship and eligibility benefits for female student-athletes and suggests that coaches of women’s teams don’t value their sports in the same way that coaches of men’s teams do.

How does roster management impact the integrity of collegiate athletics?

There are people in positions of leadership within higher education who are setting a horrible example for student-athletes with regard to honesty, character, fairness and sportsmanship — the core values that students should be exposed to via participation in college athletics. Roster management is counterintuitive to everything that collegiate athletics and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have purported to cultivate and instill in students across the country, in all divisions of play.

What are the pros and cons of Title IX?

Title IX has created immeasurable positive benefits for student-athletes in the United States. Aside from striving to present female students with an equal share of athletic resources and opportunities, it has forced us all to take stock in what is fair and just in sports.

On the other hand, there are still some coaches and athletic directors who use Title IX as an excuse to condemn women’s athletics for not generating the same level of financial return as some men’s sports. Furthermore, sometimes Title IX can create a sense of loafing within athletics, meaning that athletic directors and coaches feel like they are “covered” by the policy and therefore do not have to do anything more than the bare minimum to be in compliance with governing standards. As a result, we are left with “roster management.” When it’s time to measure the number of women participating on teams, they are covered, but when the counting is over the remaining truth is sorely lacking.