A regular column by Athletic Director Bill Husak.
Recently, through the NCAA legislative process, an increase in women's scholarships was proposed. The proposition mandated increases in scholarships in four sports; women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's track/cross country and women's gymnastics. The reasons for the increases were to balance gender scholarship discrepancies between men and women caused because of numbers of scholarships that are offered by Division I-A football programs.
The past six months have brought two issues to the forefront. The first is the NCAA and its legislative process as a whole. The NCAA at the Division I level is comprised of more than 330 members and 30-plus conferences. The only difference among the designation of I-A, I-AA and I-AAA is whether an institution plays football and, if it does, to what degree. Division I-AAA does not play football, while Division I-A plays fully funded football. Division I-AA institutions play a scaled down football compared to I-A. The question that begs to be asked is how can one organization address the various issues with respect to gender equity caused by one sport while maintaining a level playing field across all sports?
Although the I-A institutions have an equity imbalance caused by football, many I-AAA universities have the same imbalance but in the opposite direction because they don't play football. In an effort to counter-balance the inequity problem, scholarship limits for men's sports are less than comparable to that of women's sports. The NCAA limits for basketball are 15 for women and 13 for men. Soccer has now jumped to 14 for women and 9.9 for men. These differences occur across the spectrum of comparable sports to accommodate for football. Yet, for the I-AAA, they can cause an inequity in the opposite direction. The legislation that was mentioned at the top of the column was defeated primarily for cost containment reasons. But a secondary reason for some I-AAA institutions was the underlying problem of an inequity in scholarship allocations for women.
When the proposed scholarship increases were defeated, it was hailed by NCAA administrators as a great example of the NCAA governance model in action. The NCAA was restructured a decade ago when many of the football conferences threatened to secede. To placate the primarily I-A institutions, the NCAA at the D-I level was restructured so that the majority on every committee consisted of I-A members, even though they constituted approximately 30% of the membership. These committees in effect steer collegiate athletics and at the wheel are I-A's.
Today's structure allows for policy and rules to be put into effect through the committee system unless a significant percentage of the membership is in opposition. The first such instance in the decade since the governance structure has been in place occurred with the scholarship increase issue. In order to defeat these increases, 5/8 of the membership had to vote against it. In every case, over 60% of the membership voted against the increases, however, the women's soccer scholarship increase did not get repealed as it barely missed the 62.5% minimum voting against it.
The overturning of these increases was disappointing to many who believe that the issue of gender equity has not been fully attained in the scholarship realm. To others, it has been applauded as a "tapping of the brakes" on the collegiate athletic arms race spending. And yet, for some, the question of how can over 60% of the membership of the NCAA be against scholarship increases, and yet those increases still be implemented?
The NCAA has significant challenges in the future that may even threaten its existence in the form we know it today. Although the athletics challenges and issues across the country tend to be similar, there are enough different issues that maintaining sensitivity will be difficult for an organization as large and diverse as the NCAA. I will try and keep you informed of this ever-changing landscape and how it may impact Loyola Marymount University.