This article originally appeared on ZU News.
Azusa Pacific has had a memorable year in athletics with the football team taking home the conference title and the baseball team climbing as high as number three in the NCAA Division II national rankings. Both of these teams represent the men’s side of sports, which can sometimes dominate media coverage in comparison to women’s sports.
Women’s sports often seem underrepresented, even though there are three more women’s sports than men’s at APU; there are 10 women’s sports teams and only seven men’s. This may seem a bit lopsided, and in some ways it is, but it is not without reason.
APU must comply with Title IX, like all schools that receive federal funding. Title IX is a law that was passed in 1972 which makes sure women have the same opportunities as men at all colleges and universities. One of the biggest parts of this is making sure females have equal opportunities as males in athletics.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” the law states according to the U.S. Department of Education.
In the past 45 years, Title IX has caused serious debate concerning collegiate athletics. Many universities have had to shut down men’s sports programs in order to stay Title IX compliant. Fortunately, APU has not been one of them, according to athletic director Gary Pine.
“The impact of Title IX over the history of APU is seen in the numbers. We have 17 sports, 10 women’s sports and seven men’s sports, almost a two-to-one ratio,” Pine said. “If you go back 40 years ago, we had about two women’s sports and probably about seven men’s sports at that time too. We have grown quite a bit over the years with our women’s sports offerings.”
Pine said that APU did have to cut men’s wrestling in the 70s, but it was a financial decision unrelated to Title IX. And although APU has not cut any men’s sports because of Title IX, there have not been any men’s sports added since it passed.
“We have not added a men’s sport since 1972 when we started men’s soccer, but Title IX and the growth of women’s sports in high schools have allowed us to have continued and sustained growth of women’s teams,” Pine said.
On the other side, there are now five times as many women’s sports at APU than there were in 1972. Women’s track and field was added in 1981. Softball was added in 1986. Women’s tennis was added in 1999. Women’s swimming & diving, acrobatics and tumbling, and water polo were all added in 2008-09.
There is still the issue that there are three more women’s teams than men’s teams. This is because the football team has over 100 athletes on the roster. The four sports that women have and men don’t have a total of 56 athletes, only about half of football. In fact, women make up a little less than half of APU’s student athletes.
“One of the challenges for a small liberal arts school like us is that our student population is about 65 percent women and 35 percent men. One of the prongs of Title IX says that your athletics should reflect your student body. Our athletics is about 54 percent men and 46 percent women, not quite half and half,” Pine said. “That makes it a challenge. We don’t meet that aspect of Title IX but we meet a couple others including showing a history of adding women’s sports.”
This would seem to create cause for concern, that are still more male athletes at APU despite the infamous ratio. There are several misconceptions about this and about Title IX, according to April Hoy, the Director of Sports Medicine and Wellness.
“We were given statistics that women being the underrepresented sex have less scholarships across the nation in the NCAA. That’s actually not true at APU,” Hoy said. “Even though we have more male student athletes, our women get a higher percentage of scholarships.”
One of the other misconceptions Hoy mentioned was that APU did not have to comply with Title IX.
“I think for a long time there was a rumor that since we’re a private school, Title IX didn’t apply to us. That’s not true, it does,” Hoy said. “It’s something that we’re continually wanting to add support resources to make sure we’re equitable. It is a priority for us.”
Pine also emphasized that Title IX was a priority for the athletics department. He said that Title IX isn’t just about adding sport’s teams – it’s about making sure the athletes get the same opportunities in terms of scholarships, coaching, equipment and travel.
“One of my goals is to make sure that the 10th runner on the cross-country team here had just as wonderful of an experience as the starting quarterback. I don’t want the number of spectators to determine the value of an experience,” Pine said. “The value comes from the opportunities, the coaching/mentorship that’s provided, the athletic [financial] aid.”
Payton Williams, the Director of Compliance and Academic Support, noted that APU has done well at this.
“The experience between athletes is very similar across the board,” Williams said. “Opportunity-wise with resources we provide, we’re on par with making sure it’s the same for females and males.”
Title IX remains controversial even 45 years after it was passed. Stephen Hinkel, associate sports information director, said that the spirit behind the law when it was passed differs from how it is enforced today, a source of controversy. However, Hinkel still commended what Title IX has done.
“The idea of women in sports wasn’t a prevalent concept prior to the passage of Title IX. I’ve seen the benefits of it first hand at the different schools I have worked at. I’m not entirely sure what the landscape of women’s athletics would look like without Title IX,” Hinkel said.