March 27, 2010

Idiot Sports Announcers Watch (v. 1.0)
—ESPN Lacrosse

Welcome to the first in what will become a recurring blog theme—idiot sports announcers.  For our first entry, we go to a surprise entry from the world of lacrosse ...

This afternoon, I was watching the Virginia vs. Johns Hopkins lacrosse match on ESPN2. Lacrosse has been blowing up in terms of participation over the past decade—see articles HERE, HERE, and HERE for a sense of the rapid expansion of lacrosse at all levels of play.  Matches are often covered on ESPNU and ESPN2, and are fun to watch.  The action is fast-paced, there is plenty of scoring, and there is a strong element of athleticism to the game, which makes it entertaining even for those of us who've never played the game.

Midway through the second half, the color commentator* was talking about a player who had grown up outside the traditional lacrosse hotbeds in the Northeastern part of the country.  Using my DVR to try to create an accurate transcript, here's the commentary:
[This player is] Another example of how lacrosse continues to grow in non-hotbed areas. Places like Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Seattle, Washington. There are more great players coming out of those areas playing at all sorts of different schools. And that’s why parity now exists in Division I college lacrosse. There’s only 60 schools, there’s only so many places you can go. Gender equity slowing the growth of Division I men’s lacrosse.
Our commentator starts by making an interesting point about the growth of lacrosse across the entire country, emphasizing how lacrosse is now a national sport, and how that development of the sport nationally has made the sport as a whole more competitive.  He has me hooked.

Then, our commentator decides to be an idiot, blaming parity in college lacrosse on "gender equity".  Apparently, our commentator feels that more men's lacrosse teams would be fielded by Division I colleges if "gender equity" weren't required.  He doesn't explain his position further, so the purported cause-effect relationship between "gender equity"  and the lack of men's lacrosse teams can only be surmised to be a reference to Title IX requirements for gender equity in athletic opportunities.

The problem for our commentator's thesis is that Title IX does not prohibit any school from fielding a men's lacrosse team.  All that Title IX requires is equitable treatment of women in providing athletic opportunities.  A school can comply with Title IX in one of three ways:
  1. Have a female participation rate for athletics roughly equivalent to the percentage of women in the student body;
  2. Demonstrate a steady increase in athletic opportunites for women; or,
  3. Demonstrate that it is meeting the athletic interests and needs of its female students.
Interestingly, according to an article by Gene Garber at ESPN, there are only an average of 25 Title IX complaints per year related to collegiate athletics at all levels, and no school has ever lost federal funding due to Title IX violations

Given that somewhat more men than women play Division I lacrosse (there are more women's teams because women tend to have smaller squads), it appears complaints about a lack of opportunity for male lacrosse players are misplaced.  In any event, Title IX does not prevent schools from fielding men's lacrosse teams (or other men's athetic teams) if they wish to do so.  Title IX only requires schools to provide more opportunities for female athletes, which often leads to budgetary concerns—a school can either find new funds to finance women's athletic teams, or it can reallocate part of its sports budget away from men's sports programs.  Thus, schools without a men's lacrosse team have made a budgetary decision not to support a men's lacrosse program, pure and simple.  Blaming "gender equity" or Title IX is simply wrong, and does a great disservice to the public, fueling common resentments against Title IX and women's athletics programs.

To our idiot announcer:  Let's set aside your inexplicable ignorance about an important federal sports law, which every announcer at a network like ESPN should be able to discuss intelligibly.  As a practical matter, you aren't going to help men's lacrosse by whining about "gender equity".  Helping keep lacrosse as a whole popular is the best way to increase opportunities for all lacrosse players, as increased popularity will increase the funds that can be generated by the sport in terms of tickets, TV rights, team sponsors, memorabilia/apparel sales, etc.  More money will lead to more teams.  No need to tear the women down to buld up the men.

* I could not locate the name of the color commentator through a search of  If I can find the individual's name, I will update the post.


  1. I have to somewhat disagree with you on this topic. Case in point. Last year, UNI cut their baseball program. A program that had been around over 100 years. At no time was there any mention of cutting any women's program (I believe baseball and wrestling were the only 2 mentioned). FYI, the softball team has the full number of scholarships (as do pretty much all women's sports) while the baseball time had to get by with about half of the maximum, so I'm sure baseball cost less than softball.

    Why wasn't there mention of any of the women's programs? Because they make money? No. Because more people go to those events? No. Because football takes up 63 scholarships (85 if they were not I-AA and were I-A), and in order to try to keep equality through Title IX, they can't justify cutting a women's program even if it does cost more.

    That is where I have issues with Title IX. Football, which is the main sport at almost any university, makes it impossible to have "equality" between the sexes and sports.

  2. Yeah, I think you are forgetting a vital cause-effect scenario here. Even though they could choose to fund men's lacrosse, they would also have to increase some women's program or fund another one to add the sport. This extra budgetary burden is the reason many schools probably don't offer lacrosse. At least, that is what the announcer was trying to say. He still could have been an idiot though....

  3. Shouldn't have said "would also have" earlier...meant "may also have."

  4. Just to let you know, the announcer had it right. My step son plays club lax in Missouri with no support or acknowledgment from the school. His sister plays fully funded and supported lacrosse. The boys have had a league longer and with more teams than the girls, but alas, they are boys and therefore not covered under the same rules as the girls.
    Also goes for Ice hockey and roller hockey. Field hockey is sanctioned.. but boys aren't allowed to play.

    The ONLY times that Title IX guarantees equality is when a) the girls' interest/participation rate matches the boys or b) there is enough money to give everyone whatever sport they want.

    So basically, never

  5. Actually Aaron, I think you're wrong here. It's a classic case of begrudging the gift handed to someone else just because no one sent you anything.

    The girl's lacrosse team is getting Title IX funding because of some OTHER men's sport. Say football, or because they only have men's tennis or something.

    If Title IX didn't exist, your step-son would STILL play on a club with no support or acknowledgement from the school - but so would his sister.