Musings on Sports Economics

Title IX: What It Does and Doesn’t Require.

Here is what the Federal Government, Department of Education says about Title IX:

“This section does not require a proportionate number of scholarships for men and women or individual scholarships of equal dollar value. It does mean that the total amount of scholarship aid made available to men and women must be substantially proportionate to their participation rates.”[1]

Here’s what a few ESPN commentators have said this week.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN college sports analyst:

“It makes sense, but the NCAA and Title IX supporters would never go for it. If you’re going to pay your starting quarterback a $1,000 stipend for every game, you’re going to have pay your school’s women’s field hockey goalie the same amount.”[2] 

Mark May, ESPN college football analyst:

“Unfortunately, with Title IX … you’re going to have to pay everybody.  You cannot single out just the sports that take in money like basketball and football and I think that’s going to be key.”[3]

Pat Forde, ESPN college football analyst:

“We’re talking about a Title IX situation where, you know the Federal law, I mean has been a very popular and successful federal law in terms of enabling women’s athletics at the university level, say you gotta pay the softball team and the volleyball team what you’re going to pay the football team and the basketball team.”[4]

So two things I’d add.  The first is that there is a ton of received wisdom about what Title IX does and does not mandate that really has little relationship to what Title IX actually says.  This is one of the big ones – people act as if Title IX mandates that every athlete, male and female, get the identical scholarship.  And it’s simply not true and the Title IX enforcers themselves say it as clearly as it can be said: “This section does not require … individual scholarships of equal dollar value.”

But if any of these commentators would just step back for a second, they’d realize they already know this.  If Title IX did what they think, no woman could be on partial scholarship.  But take a look at any school’s Title IX compliance forms, or talk to any women’s coach, and you’d know that in almost all women’s sports, lots of women get partial scholarships.  I happen to have the University of Georgia’s 2010 filings in my hands, so I’ll use them as an example, but they are fairly typical (with one exception – they seem to give more partial football scholarships than most schools).

UPDATE:  I have since learned that the reason Georgia shows what looks to be partial football scholarships is likely just a side effect of “over-signing” players.  If a senior finishes his eligibility in Fall Semester and then an over-signed Freshman gets his scholarship for the Spring Semester, each shows up as a half scholarship for the year, but actually, they gave the senior a full scholarship and when he was no longer eligible, they gave the freshman the scholarship.  So these really aren’t partials at all… but my data isn;t granual enough to tease this out, yet anyway!

Football:  Georgia awarded 77.6 scholarships to 90 men.[5]  This means that on average, each football player got an 86% scholarship.  Almost certainly, this is actually something like 60 men getting full scholarships and the other 30 sharing the other 17.6 scholarships at close to 60% each.[6]  But whether that’s the case or instead everyone has the same 86%, it’s nowhere near what is going on with the women’s programs.

  • Women’s Equestrian.  Here 60 women share 13.87 scholarships, or an average of 23% per scholarship athlete.
  • Women’s Golf.  Here 11 women share 5.98 scholarships, or an average of 54% per scholarship athlete.
  • Women’s Soccer. 30 women and 14 scholarships, i.e., 47% per scholarship athlete.
  • Women’s Softball: 23 women, 10.89 scholarships, which is also 47% per scholarship athlete. 
  • Women’s Swimming: 13.97 scholarships are shared by 27 women, an average of 52%.
  • Women’s Tennis: 9 athletes share 6.12 scholarships, for an average of 68%.
  • Women’s Track & Field and Cross-Country: 32 women share 16.88 scholarships, averaging 53% per scholarship athlete.

Then for a few sports, the averages are actually close to the football level:

  • Women’s Basketball: 11.81 scholarships for 14 women, an average of 84% (very close to the football level)
  • Women’s Gymnastics: 12 scholarships across 15 women, an average of 80%.
  • Women’s Volleyball: 10.67 scholarships for 12 women, which, at an average of 89%, actually higher than the football team.

In total, the women’s programs have 223 scholarship athletes sharing 116.19 scholarships, for an average of 52% per woman on scholarship.[8] 

So explain to me again how everyone can be so certain that if a football player gets an $1,000 in cash on top of a full scholarship that each woman on scholarship has to get the same amount.

As a second issue remember that what Title IX does say is that schools need to have male/female athlete participation rates that are ‘substantially proportionate” to the male/female ratio of undergraduates on campus.  Georgia’s Male/Female ratio for the total campus is 42/58, meaning that women outnumber men almost 3 to 2.  But Georgia’s participation rate is 269 men to 247 women, meaning that men slightly outnumber women.  That’s probably pretty good for a BCS AQ school to have participation (52/48) so close to 50/50, but it’s nowhere close to the 42/58 ratio of the school as a whole.  So those super-strict Title IX rules just don’t seem to be quite as strict in practice.   As it happens, Georgia does seem to comply with the money piece as a whole, which says that total financial aid given to women should be within 1% of the participation rate.  So once you ignore that their participation rate is out of whack with their campus male/female ratios, they comply by giving almost identical dollars to men and women athletes (49.7% to men, 50.3% to women).

UPDATE: I’m aware Georgia can still be in compliance with Title IX by using one of the other two prongs, i.e., that it has met the need of every woman athlete on campus, or that it has made continuous progress towards better equity.  But if those prongs are being used, then for sure it is not the case that for every dollar spent on men’s scholarships, there is a dollar spent on women’s.

So here are my questions for the folks who say Title IX dooms any attempt to pay football players because you would have to pay everyone equally:

1) Why does no one mind the fact that currently, almost no school “pays” women athletes the same as the football team?  Football players are Georgia are getting 86% scholarships, and women athletes are getting 52%.  Does this violate Title IX?

2)    If instead, as Georgia seems to regard it, it’s sufficient to balance out spending on athletes’ scholarships so it mirrors participation, why couldn’t Georgia start offering $10,000 grants (above and beyond the scholarship) to football players, and for each $10,000 it hands out, increase women’s scholarship grants by $10,000. 

 Given Georgia’s total spending on women’s sports, Georgia could give out $4,000,000 in cash grants to the men who play football, and match those, dollar for dollar, with increased (non-cash) scholarships for women athletes before it would have to pay any woman athlete.[9] Four million dollars could buy some pretty good talent who might choose another school.  And Georgia could continue to comply with Title IX (as much as it currently does) by just giving every woman athlete a full-ride scholarship like most of the football players get now.

I’m also not sure why Title IX proponents are so against paying men if along with it came more funding for women’s sports.  This is one of those situation when a bunch of men with a football agenda are jumping up and down and blaming Title IX, I would think Title IX folks should question whether maybe they are getting played.  If you opened up the market for college football talent and just forced a dollar-for-dollar payment to women’s sports, this would be the single biggest boon to women’s sports since Title IX was enacted.  It would be like Title IX-point-IX.

Other posts on Title IX:

Same analysis as here, but for Florida State:

And for Clemson:

Overall Program and Coaching Salaries at Auburn and Alabama:

General discussion of why Title IX does not prevent male athletes from being paid:





[4] Forde’s quote is around the 1:47 mark.  Forde then does hint that maybe a loophole could be found, though the simplest loophole would just be following the real law and not some imaginary version of it.

[5] This is an unusually high number of partial scholarships for a BCS AQ conference team.  Most schools give out the NCAA limit 85 scholarships and almost all are 100%, meaning approx. 85 men get 85 scholarships.

[6]Note that these figures only include athletes who got some form of scholarship.  Walk-ons are not included in these numbers.  Also, it’s my understanding that recently the rules changed so that if you get a scholarship, the school must give you at least 25%, so the jump from walk-on to a partial is now more dramatic than it used to be.

[7] I removed this because it was too snarky and I’m trying to be above that.

[8] One thing I cannot get from Georgia’s compliance filings that I would love to know is how many men are on full scholarship and how many women are.  I strongly suspect only a dozen or two women get a full ride and that three or four times as many men do.

[9] There’s nothing wrong with paying women athletes too.  I am just saying, there is room under Title IX to pay men in cash and women with increased scholarships but instead everyone seems to freak out at the thought of women getting paid.  Which I think is actually pretty sexist, but maybe I’m missing something.

(UPDATED to Add Pat Forde quote)

(Please also note, there is a longer, more general Title IX discussion in the 13 NCAA myths article, here:  Title IX is “Myth 6”)

Posted by
Andy Schwarz

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