By Justin Bercovich
One team flies in airplanes. The other drives in OPERS vans. One team travels outside the state to compete. The other only competes in Northern California. One team receives funding from the university. The other gets nothing.
One team is the UC Santa Cruz women’s cross country team. The other is the UCSC cross country club. The reason for this disparity: Title IX.
Title IX is a federal law created in 1972 to prohibit sexual discrimination in educational institutions. In addition to university athletics, Title IX forbids sexual discrimination in all university student services and academic programs, including admissions, financial aid and health services, among many other services.
If institutions that receive federal funding choose not to comply, the government can cut off their funding.
UCSC athletic director Linda Spradley, who played basketball, softball, and field hockey at the collegiate level, thought back to what collegiate sports were like before 1972.
"When I started off, the men had scholarships, the men had uniforms," Spradley recalled. "I played college ball. We got the gym when the men didn’t want it, so we got it at ten at night or six in the morning. Why? Because nobody cared. The men were the athletic directors; the men were the college presidents. So why would they change it? That’s where Title IX comes in."
There are three ways that a school can be in compliance with the athletics aspect of Title IX. The first one is proportionality: the percentage of female athletes must be equal or greater to the percentage of female undergraduates at the university. At UCSC, that means 56 percent of the athletes must be female.
To meet this proportionality, UCSC added both women’s golf and women’s cross country in recent years.
A school can also be in compliance when it is in the process of adding women’s sports to meet proportionality.
Finally, a school can be Title IX compliant by finding out what sports women on the campus are interested in adding.
But some athletes, both male and female, are slightly concerned that Title IX will begin to reduce opportunities for male athletes.
"One thing you’re now starting to notice nationwide is that it is starting to go the other way," said Adam Boothe, the women’s cross country coach. "There have been many examples the last few years of some of the less revenue-earning male sports getting cut from schools to comply with Title IX."
Junior cross country runner Tamara Torlakson is one of the students that has expressed concern.
"Overall, I think Title IX is a really great thing," Torlakson said. "I just wouldn’t want things to start going backwards. I don’t want men’s teams to start taking steps backwards while we’re taking steps forwards."
Fellow teammate and senior Olivia Vegh echoed those sentiments.
"It’s not necessarily women’s fault that the men can’t have a team," Vegh said. "It’s this rule that’s been created that’s necessary to keep things fair, but it shouldn’t take away from certain group’s opportunities."
Junior Patrick Lane, a runner on the men’s club cross country team, explained the challenges facing his team.
"If there is a dedicated group of athletes that are guys and a dedicated group of athletes that are girls, they should both be able to compete at the collegiate level," Lane said. "Basically, Title IX makes it harder to do that."
Some people argue that having a women’s cross country team without a men’s team is unfair, but UCSC has never had an NCAA men’s cross country team. The school has simply given more opportunities to women. That was Rita Walker’s goal when she became the UCSC Title IX officer.
"Our goal was to come into compliance without having to take away one opportunity for any male athlete on this campus, and I’m super proud that we did that," Walker said.
"A lot of schools just cut men’s sports so that they can give more money to football and basketball and they blame it on Title IX," she said. "Our plan was to not cut any opportunities for men and we didn’t.
"It was not personal to men’s cross country," Walker continued. "This was a situation where we could load a lot of women onto the team to come into compliance."
There are 13 women on the team.
Boothe recognizes that UCSC is fortunate to have added women’s sports without having to cut any existing men’s programs.
"I want there to be a men’s cross county team," Boothe said. "I work every year to try to get a men’s cross country team. I want to coach a men’s cross country team. The women on our team here want male counterparts. We all want that, but the rules are the rules. We are Title IX compliant. Until we can find a way to add another male sport and stay compliant, that’s just the situation we’re in."
When asked about Title IX affecting the possibility of UCSC creating a men’s cross country team, Jeff Arnett, coach of the UCSC cross country club, said that this is an issue he has no control over.
"We don’t dwell on it because there is nothing we can do about it besides cry in our beer," he said.
After 34 years, some people, including coach Boothe, believe that Title IX should be modified.
"I think they need to see if they can tinker with it a little bit to bring it back to center," Boothe said.
"There are instances where schools have dropped men’s teams that have done exceptionally well because they’re afraid that if they don’t tweak the numbers, someone’s going to come after them and take away all their federal funding," Arnett said. "I think the law really needs to be changed, but I don’t see the will to do it."
Due to the existence of the Division III women’s team, the cross country club has become almost exclusively male.
"Proportionality is really just a quota system, but they don’t like to call it that," Arnett said. "As you go on through middle school, high school, and college, fewer women go out for sports, so they’re setting up a quota system that doesn’t represent reality."
Arnett pointed out that Title IX does not take club participation into account. There are many women playing club sports, but they do not get counted in the proportions because the club teams do not receive any funding from the school.
In 2003, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) issued a 42 page report entitled, "Time Out for Fairness; Women for Title IX Reform." The report, which was issued solely for educational purposes, called for the following changes to be made to Title IX: include cheerleading, drill team, pom-pom and dance teams as varsity sports, include only undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 24 in calculating proportionality, and count unfilled team positions as participants.
UCSC has both cheerleading and dance teams. If those teams counted as varsity sports, UCSC would be able to create a men’s cross country team and remain in compliance with Title IX proportionality requirements.
Even though the law has not yet been modified to meet these suggestions, the IWF is still trying to work toward reform. By educating people with this report, they are raising awareness, which may eventually lead to Title IX reform.
Some UCSC runners have addressed the issue of equity versus equality in Title IX. In the 21st century, some believe that the law should be changed to provide fairness.
"I believe schools should have equal funding for men and women; for one team to suffer is a bit unfair," club runner Zane Griffin said.
Despite the frustration of not having a varsity cross country team for men, Arnett does not question the necessity for Title IX.
"Title IX needed to be done," Arnett said. "When I was in high school there were no sports for women. It was terrible. Now I think men and women should get equal opportunity. They shouldn’t start counting heads the way they do."
Torlakson added, "Overall, I think Title IX has been very successful. I wouldn’t be able to be here today doing a sport if it wasn’t for Title IX, but at the same time, I’d like to see there be a men’s team because they deserve to have a team just as much as we do."
Like most things, the basic answer to what has become a heated question comes down to dollars and cents.
UCSC’s athletic budget is approximately $750,000. In contrast, Cal State East Bay, another Division III school without a football team, operates on a budget of $1.2 million.
If UCSC’s athletic budget increased, then the school could add both men’s and women’s sports in the future, but Spradley does not plan on adding teams anytime soon.
"We want to add sports for men and women, but we don’t support the sports we do have," Spradley said. "Until we can pay the coaches something they can live on, we can’t add."