Navigating the poor dirt road that leads from Cleveland Avenue to the University of Minnesota’s recreational soccer fields can be a treacherous journey filled with sloppy, rain-soaked potholes.
Though the road is poorly maintained and can be difficult to navigate at times, the fields themselves are another story, University club soccer President Ben Bykowski said.
And so far, having the opportunity to play and practice on the well taken care of fields has translated into wins.
The team has performed well this year, beating a variety of local opponents, with much thanks to some very talented players.
In the state of Minnesota, Merrick said, “soccer is the most popular sport from a participation standpoint for male athletes.”
He said he would like to see the club team evolve into a varsity program, but isn’t very optimistic.
“It’s unfortunate that that’s not going to happen,” he said.
The Title IX story
Title IX legislation was introduced as part of a federal statute in 1972 and went into regulation in 1975.
Originally intended to address sex discrimination in educational programs, Title IX’s role was eventually expanded to include athletics as well.
“If we did not have Title IX opportunities in higher education may be different than it is now,” said Dr. Jim Turman, director of the University’s department of recreational sports.
According to Title IX, the ratio of male and female student athletes must be proportionate to the ratio of male and female students at an institution, Regina Sullivan, the University’s senior woman administrator said.
Translated to real numbers, this means that a school with a student body composed of 50 percent female students and 50 percent male students must also consist of 50 percent female athletes to 50 percent male athletes.
“Title IX is a fabulous law that has done tremendous things for providing opportunities for women, demonstrating to women and men what women can do athletically,” she said.
However, Title IX’s relationship toward the University’s club soccer program outlines a modern complaint against the legislation.
The University’s 2008 first-year class was composed of 55.3 percent female students while male students only comprised 44.7 percent of the incoming class, according to University freshman class surveys.
Critics contend that Title IX only focuses on the raw numbers, and schools where there are far more women than there are men find athletic opportunities tilted disproportionately in favor of women.
Sullivan likened the situation to a family that invests money in a son’s athletic experience then is forced to consider its position when it has a daughter. The choices presented are, essentially, to devote all the resources to one child or find some way to divide the pie.
“In some cases with a limited amount of resources institutions found a way to share,” Sullivan said. “Does that result in some adjustments in how they allocated resources? Yes, it did. Was that to the benefit of the whole? In my mind, yes.”
In ‘the foreseeable future … ’
The question remains: Will we ever see a men’s varsity soccer program? If it ever added the program, the University might have to look into adding another women’s program as well in order to remain in compliance with Title IX.
“We are aware that boys soccer at the high school level in Minnesota is very popular,” Sullivan said. “We’re not in a position financially at this point to look at adding another sports team.”
The University holds Title IX compliance as a top priority, Turman said.
“Adding an additional men’s sport at this time would violate federal law,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to be likely in the foreseeable future.”
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