The lead story on Monday's Sports page by Ken Belson revolved around the latest round of budget cutting in college sports: "Universities Cutting Teams As TheyTrim Their Budgets." But one big factor in the cutting is left out: The impact of the federal law Title IX, which Belson described benignly as having "provided equal opportunity in men's and women's sports." But it's also caused colleges to drop minor men's sports in the name of equal treatment and proportionate funding of men's and women's teams.
After three decades of steady growth in the number of teams and student-athletes, colleges and universities large and small, private and public, east and west, are slashing millions of dollars from their sports budgets.
Colleges have dismissed athletic staff, reduced hours for pools and practice courts, and increased equipment and facility fees. Some have also cut the size of their travel squads, eliminated trips requiring air travel and done away with housing teams in hotels the night before home games.
Institutions facing fat deficits have risked the wrath of students, parents and alumni and cut scholarships and teams. TheUniversity of Cincinnatiwiped out scholarships for three men's sports: track, cross-country and swimming.Stanford Universitytold its fencing teams to look for other financing.
College sports have grown steadily during the past three decades thanks to Title IX, which provided equal opportunity in men's and women's sports. An increase in television and sponsorship dollars and growing pressure from alumni to spend more on athletics have fueled a surge in sports programs, too.
According to N.C.A.A. figures, a record 17,682 college teams competed in the 2007-8 academic year, 60 percent more than in 1981-82. During that time, the number of student-athletes grew 78 percent, to a record 412,768.
The number of women's teams has increased drastically, particularly in sports like lacrosse and soccer, thanks partly to growth in the number of youth leagues. The number of men's teams has also risen, though more modestly.
Sports like fencing, gymnastics and wrestling have gradually disappeared on campuses, overshadowed by more prominent baseball, basketball and football teams.
Belson doesn't mention Title IX as one of the contributing factors explaining why those minor sports have disappeared. Yet Northwestern University dropped men's fencing because of Title IX requirements, and a long list of schools that have dropped wrestling since the passage of the law can be found here.