Guys And Dollars

Women Still Trail in the Greed Game of College Sports

If that sounds too abstract, ask Christine Grant, women's athletic director at Iowa from 1973 until 2000, how it plays out in real life. During more than three decades in collegiate competition as well as in international field hockey, she has seen women get shut out of decision-making even as their access has expanded on playing fields. When, in the early 1980s, the NCAA supplanted the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (for which Grant served a term as president) and forced a merger of men's and women's athletics programs, Grant recalls, "We thought that together the women and the men would rethink what college sport could be, that we would bring the best from both worlds to create the best college experience imaginable for male and female athletes." Instead, women were frozen out of leadership, and what Grant calls "the alternative model" the AIAW represented never got a fair hearing.

Indeed, according to research by R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, the number of female coaches and athletic directors has declined steadily. While in 1972 90 percent of women's teams were coached by women, today that figure has dropped to 45.6 percent. Today, men head up 82.8 percent of athletic departments.

The AIAW system—keeping scholarships need-based, or at least limiting them to tuition only; developing all sports that students wanted to participate in on an equal level instead of favoring football or other mega-programs; allowing athletes to transfer and keep playing their sport; emphasizing athletes' academic lives and requiring them to meet the same admissions requirements as all other students—was thrown out altogether. "Women were muted in the NCAA and couldn't effectuate change," says Grant. "Women's sport headed down the same path as men's."

illustration: Patrick Arrasmith

How could it be otherwise, when schools troll for more and more dollars by big Division I-A programs at which male coaches earn salaries upwards of $1 million, and women's teams have to swim in the same waters? Still, the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has been trying to rein in the runaway jockocracy. "The pressures that have corrupted too many major athletic programs are moving with inexorable force,"the commission's report of last May warns, and the near future may see ever more widespread "weakened academic and amateurism standards, millionaire coaches and rampant commercialism, all combined increasingly with deplorable sportsmanship and misconduct."

The commission lists a number of recommendations. They sound a lot like the principles of the long-buried AIAW.

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