Categorized | Featured, Men's Gymnastics, NCAA

Another Look at the Decline in NCAA Sponsorship of Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics

Posted on 05 June 2017 by admin

By Shelli Koszdin

This time the axes are set up so the actual rate of decline can be easily compared. Up until about 1992, the NCAA sponsorship of both men’s and women’s teams was declining at almost identical rate – something partly masked by the greater population of women’s teams. One of the women’s teams cut during this period was at University of Texas (Texas AD Donna Lopiano, famous as a Title lX advocate, held the scissors). Those in the gymnastics community who have long wondered why UT has no women’s gymnastics will have to ask Lopiano.

Around 1992, something happened to cause the fortunes of men’s and women’s teams to diverge. The decline of the women’s was slowed (but not halted) and that of the men accelerated. What happened?

What probably happened begins with a story with a plot that is now all too familiar to the gymnastics community.

In the mid 1980s, Christine Franklin attended North Gwinnett High School, where she encountered coach Andrew Hill. Hill sexually harassed her (including what court documents euphemistically termed “forced intercourse”). Franklin reported this to school administrators who did… Nothing much. Having a known rapist as a teacher would have been just too embarrassing for the school. Fire him on the spot and call the police is what they should have done. It didn’t happen. The school district did their own investigation and let Hill resign.

What does this have to do with sports? Not much, but it does have a lot to do with how Title lX ended up being enforced. As sexual harassment is considered gender-based discrimination under Title lX, Franklin sued the school district for $1 million on that basis. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled plaintiffs could recover money damages under Title lX.

This was a game changer. Franklin v. Gwinnett “put the teeth into Title lX.” Plaintiffs in athletics cases were more able to find lawyers to represent them, and educational institutions were more frightened of being hauled into court for what was probably going to be a losing battle than they were of the Office of Civil rights.

This didn’t stop some institutions from trying to cut women’s gymnastics teams. It just prevented them from succeeding. In fact, the UCLA women’s gymnastics team was cut along with men’s, but “When the women’s gymnastics team threatened the school with a gender equity lawsuit, UCLA backed down and the program was reinstated.”

NCAA decline

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Eric Says:

    American universities respond to money, either its gain or its loss. Cutting women’s programs can turn into a loss of money due to Title IX enforcement. Men’s programs tend to survive when they provide revenue or when they help attract philanthropic donations from alumni. If men’s gymnastics is to survive, it will require large donations to university athletic departments. If every men’s gymnastics program received 8 million dollars in endowment money today, none of them would disappear over the next 20 years.

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