A College Sports Council report that was released today blames a law that affects women’s rights for the stunting of growth in Men’s Soccer. While they may have a point, the problem as it turns out, can be traced to College Football.
According to the College Sports Council (CSC), a rule in the 1964 Civil Rights Act which requires schools to give equal opportunity to women in College Sports is limiting the growth of Men’s Soccer. The report, released today, points out some glaring statistics that prove this point. According to the CSC, only 59% of college programs offer Men’s Soccer, while over 93% offer Women’s Soccer. Furthermore, in 1995 there were 197 Men’s Soccer programs in the NCAA, today that number remains the same, whereas Women’s soccer has grown from 189 teams to 310 in the same time span.
“Men’s soccer has really been harmed,” said Eric Pearson, chairman of the CSC. “Since 1996, the growth of the sport at the collegiate level has been held back.”
On the flip-side of the argument, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the Women’s Sports Foundation’s incoming senior director of advocacy, insists the CSC’s study is overly simplistic. She says although schools might use proportionality to comply with the law, they still have plenty of flexibility.
“The law doesn’t care if an athlete is wearing a football uniform or a soccer uniform or a swimsuit or a fencing uniform. … All they care about is: Are you providing boys and girls, men and women, with equal educational opportunities?” Hogshead-Makar said. “Individual schools make those choices. The law doesn’t dictate what sports schools offer at all.”
In the end, both sides are partially correct. The law is definitely affecting the growth of Men’s Soccer, but it is not because this is a bad rule, it is because institutions need a solution to the problem of College Football.
The law states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The problem that arises out of this this, from the University point of view, is what is to be done with College Football? To put it bluntly, it is neither safe, nor financially viable to offer Women’s College Football and even if it was offered, it is very unlikely that there would be interest from enough women to sustain a league. So Universities have gone around this problem by offering Women’s Soccer as the female option to go alongside the profitable giant that is College Football.
Should something be done? Probably. Is the rule bad for college sports? No. But the solution should have more to do with finding a different sport or activity to pair with College Football than soccer. This might be a crazy thought, but the women’s activity that has always been synonymous with Football is cheerleading. So why can’t cheerleading get an upgrade? The activity is already taking up funding, there are already competitions, why not call it a sport?
Obviously this is just a thought that is being spit-balled into the ether, but the point in the end is, that Men’s college soccer would grow if the Universities thought it was important enough to let it. The only thing that will put it on the top of the priority list is the almighty dollar. So for you soccer fans out there, it is time to hope that the World Cup comes back the United States or that Major League Soccer has unprecedented and unexpected growth.
Otherwise, you could try flooding letters and phone calls to your favorite college AD’s office and be demanding. Who knows? Maybe they can come up with a great solution, but in all likelihood it will only happen if they really need to.