Title IX - Let's Be Careful
In an article yesterday in The Oregonian/Oregon Live, Oregon Ducks beat reporter James Crepea outlines allegations that the University of Oregon has been giving disparate treatment to the Oregon Beach Volleyball team, and doing so rather egregiously to the degree the external experts think OU may be in violation of Title IX.
I want to give a quick rundown of the allegations before bringing the subject back to Louisville athletics.
Title IX is, of course, the law passed in 1972 that prohibit sex-based discrimination in any school or education program by any organization that receives federal funding from the federal government. Given the prevalence of federal grants, scholarships, and student loans, that is nearly every educational institution in the country.
OU has funding for no scholarships for Beach Volleyball...which makes the program the only program in the power five conferences to fund no scholarships, across all sports. While some Beach Volleyball players at various schools also play Indoor Volleyball, that is not the case at OU. OU's Beach Volleyball team has had to drive in University vans, many hundreds of miles across the country to go to competitions, at times sharing hotel rooms between three and four players and sharing beds in the process. In at least a couple of occasions, the team resorted to staying with families of players and sleeping on air mattresses. Credit to the various families for stepping up, but shame on OU.
The budget for the OU Beach Volleyball program in 2021-2022 was under approximately $300,000, with the next lowest team budget at the school approximately $834,000 for the Men's Tennis team with a significantly smaller roster. The team plays in a public park that has no locker room facilities, or even a place for players to wash the sand off of their feet before getting back in their cars.
The OU Beach Volleyball was not recognized at Ducks Football games when every other program in the school was brought on the field for recognition. The only facilities that the Beach Volleyball team does have available to them is a locker room that is shared with visiting basketball teams.
In maybe the most damning comparison, the OU acrobatics and tumbling team funds more than 12 scholarships in a sport that is "only" an "emerging sport" in the NCAA, while Beach Volleyball emerged from the "emerging sport" status to a full championship sport in 2016, and yet Beach Volleyball has no scholarships available at OU.
OU has had over a 2% disparity in scholariship dollars awared between men and women overall. Title IX allows for a 1% disparity to still be in compliance.
Back to Louisville
OK, so things are bad in Eugene, OR, particularly with respect the Beach Volleyball team, but what does this have to do with the University of Louisville. We don't even have a Beach Volleyball team.
While I don't have any reason to believe that there is the level of disparity of treatment that is alleged for OU here at UofL...I can't say we're free of it, either.
Dan McDonnell, the head coach of Louisville Baseball, at the end of their season voiced his opinion that Baseball wasn't getting the support that it should be at the University. Within a month the UofL Athletic Board of Directors had approved $3 million dollar project to upgrade Patterson Stadium.
To be fair, McDonnell and the Baseball team, despite a bit of a disappointing season this year, has been the most successful men's sports program at the University in recent years.
Yet, Volleyball will be playing all but three of their home matches this fall at L&N FCU arena. Admittedly the arena received upgrades in 2017, and the support facilities for the Volleyball team in the building are quite nice, even while the air conditioning in the arena has proven to be underpowered. But the arena seats approximately 1,000, which has proven to be woefully inadequate given the success of the Volleyball team since 2019 when they won arguably the biggest upset match in college volleyball history by beating Texas on their home floor in Austin on their way to the program's first Elite 8 appearance. Given a pair of Final Four appearances in the past two years, including the National Championship match appearance last year, Volleyball now has a multi-year long waiting list for season tickets at L&N FCU arena.
Volleyball is unquestionably the most successful team program in UofL Athletics over the past few years, with really only Baseball and Field Hockey even being in the discussion, and there is no commitment to improve the arena for the team to play in and allow more fans to come and support them.
A reminder that Volleyball is a fully ticketed sport at UofL, and has been since at least 2006 when I started attending, while Baseball has only on-again, off-again, ticketing for some games in the that was begun in the most recent few years.
I understand that Volleyball success has been relatively recent, with what is now considered a national powerhouse squad having been considered "upset queens" in Texas just four years ago, and that it takes time to fundraise and plan for improvements such as these. But the athletics board of directors approved funding for the Patterson stadium renovation before fundraising has been done, or even specific plans drawn up.
I've been patient, holding off on calling for such a commitment for Volleyball, but the time is now.
Is there disparity in the department's approach to Baseball vs Volleyball? Yes, I believe so. Does it rise to the level of being a violation of Title IX? No, of course it doesn't. But let's keep our eyes on the ball, here. Being in compliance with Title IX in the minimum, we should be better than that.
It's time to commit to building a new Volleyball stadium.
-- Jeff McAdams