SHSU women’s teams excel through Title IX

As a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX has served as an avenue for women’s athletes throughout the country to have equal access to collegiate careers with schools sanctioning additional women’s sports.

But for Sam Houston State athletics, Title IX is more than just legislation. It has been a channel to expand its program and achieve national prominence and exposure.

During the mid-1990’s, SHSU’s athletic program chose to expand scholarship opportunities to women athletes as well as adding three additional women’s sports that are NCAA sanctioned. SHSU athletic director Bobby Williams said since expanding the spectrum of women’s sports, the athletic program has seen nothing but a positive impact.

“I believe [Title IX] has helped enrollment,” Williams said. “It’s been positive for athletics especially for women’s track. They went from four scholarships to 18 scholarships now.”

Title IX states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.”

And for one SHSU team, Title IX is the basis for its formation.

Established 2010, SHSU’s women’s bowling team has risen into national rankings since their inaugural season – seeded in the top 10 for three consecutive years. Head coach Brad Hagen said because of Title IX, smaller sports such as bowling, are able to compete at the collegiate level.

“If Title IX didn’t exist, the bowling team wouldn’t exist,” he said.

Hagen said the legislation has given him the capability to recruit strong athletes to join SHSU’s bowling program.

“I think it’s a very, despite what people’s opinion are, positive thing for sports in general,” he said. “We’ve become what we have giving credit to the individuals who I’m recruiting. I’m recruiting strong athletes with a strong work ethic.”

But women’s sports at SHSU didn’t come immediately after the legislation was enacted.

Williams said discussions involving Title IX and expanding women’s sports at the university began 15 years ago with the addition of women’s golf in 1997. It wasn’t until 2003 the second team under Title IX was added with women’s soccer in the mix.

But with the positive impact Title IX has had on women’s collegiate sports, the presupposition of its affect on men’s sports has tarnished support for the legislation.

ESPN Magazine reporter Peter Keating addressed the issue in his 2012 article “The silent enemy of men’s sports.”

Since coming into effect, colleges have axed hundreds of men’s teams using Title IX as an excuse, Keating wrote. However, he said the blame is on the NCAA.

Article of the NCAA Division I bylaws states that the distribution of scholarships should be equal for men’s and women’s sports, and each sport has a set amount that they can distribute.

Sports including football and gymnastics are labeled as “head count” sports that offer student athletes full scholarships, yet sports including softball and volleyball are labeled as “equivalency” sports meaning the coach can divide scholarship allotment into fractional offers as long as the total of all scholarships doesn’t exceed the team’s limit.

Keating said the labeling of sports and the ways each team is able to allocate each scholarship is not a result of Title IX, but lays within the regulations of the NCAA.

Although SHSU’s athletic program does not have men’s soccer, bowling or tennis, the female equivalency has helped SHSU continue to expand, Williams said.

SHSU’s athletic program does not receive federal or state funding, yet it generates a large enough revenue through other sources – including ticket sales, student athletic fees and donations – to fund expanding their growing scholarship opportunities.

According to the United States Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics and Data Analysis, SHSU women’s teams account for 44 percent of athletic-related student aid at the university. The final 56 percent of athletic scholarships are allocated for men’s teams, with SHSU’s football team representing the majority of assigned scholarships for men.

Sports Reporter Marissa Hill contributed to this report.

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