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15 November 2017

Football, Title IX, and the Liberal Arts

I got into a bit of a back-and-forth with my institution's Instagram feed yesterday. Here is a transcript:
georgiacollege: Georgia College's new esports team is off to a successful start in the first year of Peach Belt Conference play....
[anonymized white fraternity member]: Why in the hell do we have an esports team but not a football team?
georgiacollege: @[anonymized white fraternity member] we don't have a football team due to Title IX and a lack of resources to comply with Title IX requirements.
bradleyakoch: @georgiacollege Is that the university's official rationale? Seems to make a political scapegoat of Title IX. What about the liberal arts mission and independently exorbitant cost of NCAA football programs? [emphasis added]
georgiacollege: @bradleyakoch You can find Title IX requirements at https://goo.gl/fZzW2r. Since the law requires the University to offer an equal number of sports opportunities for both men and women in order to be in compliance, there aren't enough resources currently to bring multiple athletics on campus which we would have to do first before even getting into the cost of stadiums and hiring coaches etc.
bradleyakoch: @georgiacollege Yes, I understand the requirements of Title IX, but this rationale seems to imply that if Title IX didn't exist, GC would have a football team. I question whether that is the case since there are many other factors that would preclude the development of such a program as I noted above. Invoking Title IX, especially in this political climate, is dangerous in that it gives grist to [those] who oppose such progressive legislation. It may be good for us to reevaluate the official line on this topic. [emphasis added]
To be fair, I have no idea who runs those social media accounts. I assume that it is staff at University Communications; though, it could easily be an undergraduate worker. This may not be the official university answer to this question, but it carries that weight with the public. (The only mention on our website I can find of the topic is for a FAQ from the Student Government Association, which gives a more nuanced answer, but I find no official statement on the matter from the administration.)

The problem with the de facto official statement from GC about football is in its framing. This Instagram reply frames it as a problem with Title IX. I understand why this is a convenient framing for administrators. It allows them to deflect criticism over the issue. It essentially says, "Look, I hear ya. I want a football team, too, but this is out of my hands. 'They' won't let me do it. Yell at 'them.'" The problem, as I hinted in my reply, was that it casts Title IX as a law that hurts men instead of helping women. (For just one example, look at the story of Sally Ride, who benefitted from an athletic scholarship.)

There are other ways to frame the issue, however. Instead of having to create more women's sports, we could remove other men's sports to make room for football. As I noted, we could frame football as expensive in and of itself. I think the more honest framing, though, is to tout our liberal arts mission. Football would be a distraction from that mission, financially and culturally.

In short, Title IX is socially beneficial. We--men, women, boys, and girls--are better off because of it. Blaming something as trivial as the absence of a football program on it is dangerous.

To be clear, I am not what most would consider anti-football. I lettered in football in high school and consider myself a fan of both college football and the NFL (albeit conflictedly), and I watch a lot of it on TV, much to the chagrin of my spouse.

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