Title IX is a wide-ranging law ensuring equality based on gender in all areas of education and other federally assisted programs, but it's most controversial when applied to high school and college athletics. Many universities have tried some tricky tactics to make sure their athletics programs are in compliance with the law, but few are as brazen as the University of South Florida's attempts to scam the system, as uncovered by the New York Times.
Though the Times says schools can show compliance with Title IX by "demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women, or by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students," the most common and primary method of compliance is by having the number of female athletes at a school be roughly proportional to the number of total females enrolled.
USF's problems with Title IX began in 1997 when it decided to start a football program -- a program that has grown into a burgeoning power and major source of income, and even defeated the University of Miami Hurricanes last year (so, uh, yeah, maybe we're a bit bitter).
Rather than cut other men's athletics, the school decided to expand the number of female athletes. Well, kinda sorta, maybe.
At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.
Basically, USF has greatly expanded the rosters of its women's track teams over the past decade, though few of the ladies on the team actually participate. Seventy-one women were listed on the roster for the school's cross-country team in 2009-10, but only 28 actually raced.
Female runners in particular provide an excellent way for schools to skirt the Title IX issue:
"Female runners can be a bonanza because a single athlete can be counted up to three times, as a member of the cross-country and the indoor and outdoor track teams," the Times reports.
And apparently USF has taken advantage of this "bonanza" like few other schools.
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It should be noted USF is far from the only school that participates in this kind of "roster management," but apparently it has some of the most brazen and sloppy examples. The story cites one young woman who quit the track team her sophomore year but was still listed on the roster of the three different track teams until her junior year.
It's unclear if USF will face sanctions because of the report, but we're betting the school at least will be forced to take some internal action.