Delaware Men's Cross Country, Outdoor Track & Field Teams Reclassified To Club Status as UD Addresses Gender Equity Issues
January 19, 2011
NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware announced today that two intercollegiate athletic teams—men’s cross country and men’s outdoor track and field—will be reclassified as club teams and will no longer compete at the NCAA-sanctioned varsity level.
Over several months, the University of Delaware Athletics administration, the Office of the General Counsel and senior University officials conducted an in-depth study to determine the optimal combination of sport offerings that would provide quality opportunities to UD student-athletes while exercising fiscal responsibility and remaining in compliance with Title IX.
Appropriate committees of the UD Board of Trustees have examined and approved a plan to meet these objectives. As a result, the University will reclassify the men’s cross country and men’s track programs from varsity to club status, effective at the conclusion of the 2010–11 academic year.
“We explored every avenue in search of alternatives to this action,” said UD Director of Athletics and Recreation Services Bernard Muir. “After weighing several possibilities, we concluded that this plan is our most viable. We found ourselves facing two options: Either we had to continue the periodic expansion of programming for women in order to be responsive to their interest and ability, or adjust the current offerings to provide equitable and substantially proportionate participation opportunities for our men and women. Continued expansion of our Athletics program is not feasible in this financial climate, and given that reality, the University made the only decision it could.”
The number of varsity sports at UD will be reduced from 23 to 21 under the approved plan. Women’s golf will begin to compete this year, see related story. At 21 varsity sports, UD will still be well above the NCAA Division I minimum and will field more varsity teams than any other institution in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Currently eight of the twelve CAA schools sponsor men’s cross country and seven sponsor men’s track and field.
“The UD Athletics program is broad in scope compared to our league peers,” said David Brond, vice president for communications and marketing. “With so many teams and the rising costs necessary to operate an intercollegiate athletics program of this magnitude, we were simply faced with a challenge to uphold our commitment to gender equity. While this was a difficult decision, this action demonstrates the University’s commitment to the equity principles embodied in Title IX.”
Thirty-eight student-athletes of the more than 600 currently participating in UD varsity sports will be directly affected by the decision. “Our primary concern remains our student-athletes,” said Muir. “We will support these young men in their effort to compete this spring. We also will take great care to assist those who wish to transfer to continue their collegiate athletic careers but will honor the athletic scholarships for those student-athletes who decide to remain at UD and graduate.”
Coach Jim Fischer will remain as women’s cross country coach.
UD students interested in competing in men’s cross country and men’s track and field continue to have an avenue through UD’s robust club sports program.
“As a department, we are committed to providing meaningful educational experiences through our many offerings in recreation, club and intramural sports in addition to fielding championship-seeking varsity teams,” said Muir. “I trust that the Blue Hen community will come to understand the reality we were forced to confront and will support us in our endeavor to provide a first-class experience for all of our students.”
What led to the decision to reduce the Athletics Department’s program scope from 23 intercollegiate sports to 21?
The decision to reclassify two men’s sports from varsity to club status was driven by the University’s commitment to equitably provide quality opportunities to its student-athletes while adhering to principles of gender equity and responsible stewardship of University resources. The UD Athletics administration used a comprehensive set of factors (see below) to assess each intercollegiate program before this decision was made.
The University is committed to gender equity and compliance with Title IX. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, signed into federal law in 1972, is landmark legislation banning gender discrimination in schools, whether it be in academics or athletics. In order to conform to the law, universities must satisfy one of three tests (or “prongs”) for participation: proportionality, continued practice of program expansion, or history of accommodation. In other words, an institution must: 1. Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment as full-time undergraduate students (the so-called “proportionality” prong), OR 2. Demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex (the “continuing practice” prong), OR 3. Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (the “accommodation” prong).
Although it would have been preferable to retain all 23 varsity sports, UD determined that it was impossible to exercise fiscal responsibility while fulfilling Title IX mandates without balancing the number of athletic opportunities offered. Given current economic realities, the University cannot maintain Title IX compliance by continuing to expand its offerings (in order to satisfy the continuing practice prong) or by fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (to satisfy the accommodation prong).
How will UD be in compliance with the federal law after the changes are enacted?
Until now, UD Athletics has complied with Title IX by satisfying the continuing practice prong through the continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex. We have reached the point where it is fiscally impossible for the University to continue to expand its intercollegiate athletics and provide a competitive experience for student-athletes representing this institution. Therefore the decision was made that UD must meet the standard set under the proportionality prong by ensuring male-female participation numbers that match their respective full-time undergraduate enrollments. At the conclusion of the 2009–10 academic year, UD’s undergraduate enrollment was 58 percent female and 42 percent male, while Athletics participation was 51 percent female and 49 percent male.
Once this plan is fully implemented, total participation in Athletics will move to 57 percent female and 43 percent male, within one percentage point of undergraduate enrollment, an acceptable margin of difference under federal gender equity standards.
What was the process that led to this decision?
For the last several months, UD Athletics administrators have been meeting with the UD Office of the General Counsel and other senior University officials to review options for this complicated and difficult decision. This week, a final recommendation was given to and approved by appropriate committees of the UD Board of Trustees.
Gender equity considerations demanded a thorough review of the impact of discontinuing selected sports in order to yield participation numbers proportionate to the student body as a whole. Every conceivable configuration of teams was analyzed in a process that began with team roster sizes.
At the conclusion of this decision-making process, there was only one viable option—reclassify a limited number of teams in order to sustain the competitive ability of all the teams that would remain. Based on this sport-reduction decision, the University will be in Title IX compliance through the proportionality prong.
Which programs are being discontinued and how were they determined?
Men’s cross country and men’s track and field will be discontinued after the completion of their 2010–11 seasons. Both these teams will transition to the club sport level.
The decision to eliminate these athletic programs came after a careful analysis that looked at a wide range of criteria, including:
• Compliance with Title IX and the principles of gender equity
• Roster sizes
• Opportunities for NCAA and CAA success
• Contributions to student-athlete diversity
• History of competitive success
• Donor impact
• Contributions to the Athletics Department mission
• Prevalence of CAA varsity competition
Only after a painstakingly thorough analysis was a final plan presented to the Board of Trustees. As regrettable as it was to eliminate these programs, no realistic alternative was identified. With a roster of 38 male student athletes, these two men’s sports programs must be considered when evaluating the University’s capacity for continued Title IX compliance.
Unlike other teams in Intercollegiate Athletics, once cross country and track and field become club sports, the affected student-athletes can continue to compete at the local, regional and national level. As a result, changing these teams’ status will have less impact on their athletes than changing the status of strictly NCAA-sponsored sports.
Is there a possibility that these teams could be reinstated?
We anticipate that in the weeks following this announcement of sport reductions, the University will receive a large number of inquiries asking what, if anything, can be done to reinstate one or both of the sports scheduled to end their varsity-level competition.
To preserve the current structure of 23 teams would require the Athletic Department’s donor base to pledge unprecedented levels of additional philanthropy. Any amount would need to guarantee revenue sufficient to permanently maintain a program that offers all the resources necessary for competing at the highest athletic levels. A careful analysis indicated that it would be unrealistic to expect a significant number of donors to immediately increase their giving far above current levels.
In addition, due to the requirements of the federal Title IX law, any philanthropic campaign would have to create a sustainable endowment to restore the two affected men’s programs and expand additional offerings for women.
As a practical matter and in fairness to UD’s student-athletes—who are now contemplating their future academic, athletic and career plans—we cannot extend the timing of this decision.
What will happen to the affected student-athletes?
While our entire community is affected by this plan, 38 of the over 600 student-athletes are directly affected. Twelve student-athletes on the affected teams currently receive athletic-related financial aid. Each of these student-athletes, in addition to those not receiving aid, will be allowed to transfer. If, instead, the students choose to stay at UD, the University will honor their athletic-related financial aid until they graduate, consistent with NCAA rules.
UD Athletics will assist any student-athlete who wishes to transfer in order to continue his athletic pursuits elsewhere. Per NCAA rules, student-athletes who transfer due to the elimination of their athletic program can compete immediately; they’re not required to sit out a season. All prospective incoming student-athletes for these programs will be notified of this decision.
What does the decision mean for student-athletes who choose to stay at UD and for Coach Fischer? Cross country and track and field can continue at the club level. This will allow UD students to compete in these sports in open meets. UD currently has 30 club programs, many of which travel and compete against colleges and universities nationwide. Coach Fischer will continue to lead women’s cross country for the foreseeable future.
There are other large roster sports within the UD program. Why weren’t their rosters trimmed before eliminating two entire men’s teams? While there are other sports with a large number of male student-athletes, it is simply not feasible to arbitrarily reduce the roster size of several programs. It is worth noting that the three largest men’s sports, in terms of 2009–10 participation, are: football (103), lacrosse (55) and men’s track and field (48). The University undertook a careful analysis of all reasonable options to meet our moral and legal commitments to gender equity.
Other team-specific options considered were not deemed appropriate because they would place us in a position of providing sub-standard support for UD student-athletes in those remaining sports. The option of a larger reduction in the number of teams was also viewed as an unsatisfactory alternative given the belief that the University greatly benefits from a broad-based program.
Have other sports previously been discontinued at UD? The decision to discontinue varsity sports is not unprecedented at UD. Men’s sports that previously held varsity designation include wrestling and men’s indoor track and field.
What is the status of the proposal to add women’s golf as a varsity program? In January 2009, the University announced plans to add women’s golf as a varsity sport. On December 22, 2010, UD Athletics announced that the University will sponsor women’s golf at the varsity level for the first time in school history and that former Georgetown University head coach Patty Post will lead the program. The women’s golf program will begin official action in September 2011 and will compete for the CAA Championship in 2012.
Will other actions need to be taken to make UD Title IX compliant, such as roster limits? In order to meet the proportionality standard, the Athletics Department will continue to work with coaches to more closely manage squad sizes for all intercollegiate teams. Careful and consistent management of roster sizes and scholarship allocations will be required.
To what extent are the alumni communities and student-athletes associated with the affected teams notified of this decision? Meeting or exceeding statistical compliance with Title IX has always been one of the foundations of UD Athletics. In November 2008, a decision was made to discontinue men’s indoor track at the varsity level. This was the first time UD had deemphasized a sport in 18 years. Prior to the decision to add women’s golf as a varsity sport, the last women’s sport added at the intercollegiate level was rowing in 1998.
Recent discussions involved a thorough review of all sports. Until this decision was approved by the appropriate committees of the UD Board of Trustees, specific sports were not discussed publicly since department leadership was trying—until the very last moment—to avoid a reduction in the scope of the program. All current and prospective student-athletes participating in the affected sports have been notified. The alumni and donor communities are being notified directly by UD Athletics administration.
The University remains committed to a broad-based athletics program that is an integrated part of the campus and community, upholds institutional values and supports UD’s Path to Prominence. UD is certainly not alone in facing challenges to its intercollegiate program. Many other schools across the country, including the CAA’s James Madison University, Hofstra University and Northeastern University, have decreased the scope of their athletics departments within the last two years.
Which sports will the University continue to offer? After these announced changes, the Athletics Department will continue to offer a diverse program committed to excellence “on and off the field.” UD Athletics will move from a 23-sport program to a 21-sport program, sponsoring 8 men’s and 13 women’s teams at the intercollegiate level—commensurate with our peer institutions.
UD will offer programs in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s golf, softball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field, volleyball and women’s rowing.
CAA Conference Sport Sponsorship
School-Total Sports (Men’s Sports-Women’s Sports)
George Mason-20 (10-10)
Georgia State-16 (8-8)
Note: As of September 2010. Considers indoor and outdoor track & field as separate sports; sources: institutional athletics websites.