James Madison complies with Title IX by eliminating 10 sports

According to the JMU student newspaper, The Breeze (link here), the elimination will affect 144 athletes on the teams, including eight scholarship players costing the department $13,500 annually. The three full-time coaches and eight part-time coaches will lose their jobs, but will be granted full severance pay. The decision will afford women’s golf, women’s tennis and women’s swimming and diving full scholarships. Men’s golf and men’s tennis will be granted partial scholarships until 2011, when they will be fully funded.

The decision to reduce the number of intercollegiate-sponsored sports had been in discussion for the past 18 months. “I felt like I have been eating and breathing this decision,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said. “It is the hardest decision I’ve made in 20 years.”

In order comply with Title IX, universities receiving any federal funding are required for their athletic programs to reflect the male-to-female ratio of the student body. At JMU, the enrollment is 61 percent female and 39 percent male. The sports teams are 50.7 percent female and 49.3 percent male.

In response to the announcement, many affected athletes began a campaign to force JMU to reconsider its decision (link here). On October 2, senior runner Jennifer Chapman proposed a “Save Our Sports” campaign to a public crowd of 250. “It’s kind of like that ‘all together one’ thing,” said senior siwmmer Mitch Dalton. “It doesn’t have to be athletics, it can be students, sororities, fraternities — we just want to get everyone.” Dalton and the men’s swimming team will bring S.O.S. campaign to the campus commons on Oct. 27 to boost student involvement. They will also be hosting a rally Nov. 1.

Hwever, the Cavalier Daily, student newspaper of the University of Virginia, issued an editorial (link here) in support of the decision by JMU: “Certainly men and women deserve equal opportunities to play sports and receive scholarships. One of the problems with proving equal opportunities in many collegiate athletics programs is the dominance of football, which uses a large number of players, coaches and scholarships and has no female equivalent. Still, the fact that football teams generate a lot of revenue and support can’t be used as an excuse not to devote athletics resources to less popular women’s teams. Title IX is a reasonable expectation of equal opportunity, especially considering the new policy of allowing surveys to demonstrate demand for athletic programs and comply with the law. If JMU was not even able to meet that criterion, it shows that the athletics programs JMU were offering was truly out of step with their student body.”