By: Taylor W. Anderson
University of Montana Athletic Director Jim O’Day may have been a bit late on planning for the future of UM athletics, but this week’s ASUM vote to increase the athletic fee will help him out quite a bit.
“We probably should have been doing this a long time ago,” he said of adjusting female participation to comply with Title IX, a federal mandate requiring schools to provide gender equity.
Women make up 52 percent of UM students, yet they constitute only 40 percent of student-athletes. The school must add another women’s sport or eliminate a men’s sport and lose its NCAA Division I status, which O’Day said isn’t an option for UM.
The solution comes down to money. For the last three years, the department didn’t have any, and the fee’s approval may have been more detrimental than the athletic leader led on.
UM athletics generated $16,442,198 in revenue during the 2007-2008 school year, and spent $14,752,438. The following year it made $16,754,677 and spent $17,308,690. Some of the biggest increases were in team travel and athletic student aid, which after the ’07-08 season increased 8 percent and 43 percent respectively.
The university this year created a team to discuss a tentative five-year plan to address the looming changes and booming prices of Grizzly athletics. The team consists of O’Day, UM President Royce Engstrom and Bill Muse, the UM vice president for planning, budget and analysis.
At the heart of the solution, the team says, are private fundraising and the athletic fee increase.
“We need to create a plan that will assure us that the department will be funded and stable for five years,” Muse said, which it hasn’t always been in the past.
Student-athletes and art students requested last year a $56 fee increase to improve locker rooms, study areas and build an art annex, which students voted down. O’Day and Muse insist that this year’s similar increase has nothing to do with athletic or art facilities.
“Let me say this very directly,” Muse said. “The fee increase goes specifically for softball, this is not for repairing any buildings.”
The increase, which will reach $142 per year starting spring 2012, will generate $744,700 per year, and will slightly fluctuate depending on enrollment.
The school listed as its goals between 2011 and 2014 that it will add another women’s sport, likely softball, although approval is still needed by the regents. It also aims to create a Title IX committee by May 2011 and attempt to increase female participation by 2-to-3 percentage points by fall 2011.
To do this, the school will decrease spots on the football and men’s track rosters next fall, decreasing the teams by five each, to 100 and 45, respectively. It will also consider adding spots to the soccer roster. Collectively, these changes would increase female participation to only 41 percent, shy of the goal.
The athletic department has other gender inequalities it will have to deal will in the near future.
Women make up 40 percent of all coaches for NCAA sports on campus, yet they received 38 percent of the pay between 2008-2010, according to the UM NCAA Certification Self-Study report. The school plans to add two softball coaches in 2012-2013, at a cost of $147,200 annually, which will bring the 2 percent difference in women participation and salaries closer to even.
“I didn’t realize that,” said Annette Rocheleau, assistant coach of the Lady Griz basketball team. “I thought that several years ago it had all been equaled out.”
The report accounts the difference as being due to the football team, whose coaches’ salaries account for 37 percent of the overall coach salaries at UM. Men and women’s basketball accounts for a combined 36 percent, and all other sports make up the remaining 27 percent.
The university also spends 69 percent of money spent on recruiting on men’s sports compared to 31 percent for women’s sports. There are 259 male athletes to recruit compared with the 174 female athletes.
“Our geographic area of recruiting isn’t quite where (men’s basketball) is,” Rocheleau said. “So if we said we needed more I think we could get it, I don’t think it’s anything discriminatory.”
The department, the study finds, is also spending much less on women’s travel than on men’s teams. In 2010 the university spent 65 percent on men’s sports travel expenses compared with 35 percent for women, despite the 60-to-40 percent participation ratio.
The study also found that the women’s teams on campus are playing les games than men’s teams. Men’s basketball, football, tennis, cross country and track competed in an average of 97 percent of the allowed games in 2009 compared with 93 percent for the women’s teams.
The disparities have been well documented, and O’Day has used the softball team as a blanket solution for the gender inequalities. The fee will help the university show that it is making an attempt at providing equal opportunities for men and women to compete in sports. By doing so, the school can keep its federal funding.