Saturday, December 15, 2007

Letter to Post

Your Turn: OU student-athletes are ‘last to be informed, first to be ignored’

Published Thursday, October 25, 2007.

We were amused to read that the editors of The Post have declared the OU sports cut saga to be “Done. Ended. Finished. Kaput.” Posties, it seems you have missed most of the story about OU’s sports cuts since day one.

First of all, our lawsuit against Ohio University and the U.S. Department of Education has yet to be filed. Our attorneys from EIA (Equity in Athletics) are currently working on the JMU (James Madison University) lawsuit in the 4th District Circuit Court in Virginia. Our lawsuit will be filed sometime later this year in the 6th District Circuit Court (Ohio and Michigan).

Concerning the Office of Civil Rights’ recent rejection of the complaints filed by the cut men’s teams — we harbored little hope that these would succeed. It was primarily a cost-free avenue for us to let the U.S. Dept. of Education know that there was a problem with the proportionality prong of the three-part test of Title IX compliance and that it needs fixed.

But what is most disturbing is that most people (including the media) seem to have no clue that the good intentions of the Title IX proportionality prong are being perverted by nefarious collegiate athletic administrators as a method of “strategically reallocating” funds into revenue-producing sports. More specifically, men’s Olympic sports - which typically produce little revenue - are frequently being cut as camouflage to hide even more aggressive cuts to women’s athletics. So long as more male sports and participants are cut than female, it seems to the general public that men’s athletics are taking the greater loss to comply with Title IX. This disingenuous little ploy has developed into an alarming national trend that NCAA President, Dr. Myles Brand, is fully aware of. In a recent edition of ESPN’s Outside The Lines, he expressed his dismay with universities that act in such manner. Coincidence or not, his interview includes a clip of the Ohio football team in action. The ESPN pod cast of this OTL segment may be viewed at the following website:

The Ohio University sports cuts appear to be a textbook example of this trend. From public records we obtained from the OU athletic department, it appears that the OU saved over $450,000 by cutting one women’s sport, but saved less than $20,000 by cutting three men’s sports. The net result is a loss of about 2 percent of the overall OU athletic department budget for women’s athletics. In terms of athletic financial assistance for student-athletes, women lost 12 full scholarships (all from lacrosse) and men lost 1.8 scholarships (all from Men’s Swimming & Diving). This is a net loss of over $200,000 annually in scholarship money dedicated for women only. And of the four coaches who lost their jobs, two full-time and two GAs, three were women - two full-time coaches and one GA. Does this sound like a victory for Title IX? Has anyone at The Post contacted Donna Lopiano of the Women’s Sports Foundation to ask her opinion of OU’s sports cuts? Perhaps The Post editors should also check to see if there are any OCR complaints filed by female athletes at OU!

Perhaps the worst part is that the OU athletic department’s financial woes will continue. The department has incurred an annual debt of around $1.2 million each of the last few years. The total amount saved through the sports cut is less than half of this amount annually. The athletic department will most likely continue to incur annual debts of around $700,000 - $800,000. “Tough decisions” needed to be made — unfortunately, they weren’t. In May of 2006, Lamar Daniel assessed the OU athletic department for Title IX compliance. OU Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt referred to Mr. Daniels as “an expert, a man who spent over twenty years in the Office of Civil Rights,” but Mr. Daniel’s recommendations as to which sports to cut in order to save money and comply with Title IX weren’t followed. That lack of courage leaves the department begging for more student fee money and forces the football players to suffer injuries at the hands of BCS teams while playing more “money games” to keep the department afloat.

It’s unfortunate that student-athletes are just pawns in the collegiate athletics game, last to be informed, first to be ignored. Their input means little to college presidents and athletic administrators whom have abandoned an educational model for leading their institutions and replaced it with a business model. But it is for the student-athletes’ sake that our struggle will continue well into the future. In the words of a good friend, “Fighting for what’s right is never wrong.”

Done? Ended? Finished? Kaput? I think not!

Patrick Eaton writes from Uniontown, Ohio.

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