The University of Southern California’s
men’s swimming team almost became the latest victim of Title IX
enforcement when they were recently informed by the USC Athletics
Department that they would have to cut five members of the team since
they outnumbered the women’s swim team 37-26.
Rather than just take the Athletic Department’s decision in stride
the men’s swim team senior captain Kazu Miyahara along with other
members of both the men’s and women’s swimmimg teams went to work to
recruit additional females.
Miyahara created a Facebook group, “Save the Men’s Team, Join the
Women’s Team (Swimming!),” that encouraged female students to join even
they only had a remote interest or weren’t sure of the time commitment.
The result was that 119 members joined the group (students love
joining groups) netting 15 interested swimmers. That was more than
the women’s team needed so the coaches had to decide who was really
serious about joining the team and attending morning practices. To be
a swimmer at this level requires far more dedication than in high
school and can be grueling at times.
According to the Daily Trojan some freshmen on the men’s team were
especially worried that they would lose their spots if there were any
cuts and morale was very low.
At least they still have a team. Thanks in part to Title IX Arizona
State University eliminated its men’s swimming and tennis teams as well
Last May, Arizona State University eliminated its men’s swimming team,
as well as its men’s tennis and wrestling teams, due in part to Title
Miyahara told the Trojan that for him, the law has caused some frustration.
“I do blame Title IX somewhat, and there have been some negative
effects of it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to cut people
who are interested in swimming. It’s a hard sport. If there are people
interested and committed enough to do it, we definitely want them on
Until now I doubt that Miyahara had paid much attention to Title IX
because it didn’t affect him. But now that he has seen the destructive
effects of this law he can see how easily it can destroy a sport. Even
though the team would have been able to continue with the proposed cuts
it was likely to only be the beginning. All this does is but the swim
team one more year. Next year they could face even bigger cuts unless
they step up their efforts to recruit more women. The team is on the
Athletic Department’s hit list and despite 9 NCAA championships it may
only be a matter of time before the last male swimmer takes one final
lap in the pool.
This case has added a new wrinkle (at least for me) to the complex
issue of Title IX compliance. Normally colleges and universities take
a more global view by adding up the total number of athletes by gender
in all sports and then determining whether or not they are complying
with the law. To single out a specific sport and force both men’s and
women’s teams to have an equal number of athletes only perpetuates the
myth that men and women are equally interested in participating in
Jessica Gavora points out in her book Tilting the Playing Field that Brandi Chastain whose penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s World Cup
lifted her team to victory was the product of independent youth leagues
which give girls the opportunity to play without the rigid rules of
Chastain is just one example that Title IX is both unnecessary and
onerous and that women can thrive and succeed without the extra “help”
that the law provides.
Beyond the collegiate money sports of football and basketball it
will take an Olympian effort to save the non revenue generating men’s
sports from extinction at the rate we are going.