Same game, different treatment? Title IX questions still linger in Utah athletics

by: Zachary Arthur

Cheyenne Wilson, a freshman small forward on the University of Utah women’s basketball team, gets frustrated with inequity on the court. “If I go to the gym on my own wanting to shoot and there are men’s players wanting to shoot, they basically kick me off or I have to wait until they are done.”

The 2012 U basketball season showed people that the women’s team had a better season than the men’s team. The treatment of the two programs shows that although the women’s team might be better, the men’s team is treated like they are better.

The women’s team went 16-16 and made the Women’s NIT, a postseason invitational tournament. The men’s team went 6-25 and failed to make any of three postseason invitational tournaments that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers.

The women’s team has had one player transfer in two years. In contrast, 11 players members of the men’s team moved to other programs.

All signs point to the women’s team running a better basketball program, but they don’t get the same treatment as the men’s team in several areas.

Forty years have passed since Title IX went into effect, a federal law that mandated equal treatment between men and women in high school and college athletics, but it looks like there might still be some differences.

Division One sports programs are federally funded meaning they fall under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which states:

“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.”

Title IX ensures that both men’s and women’s athletic programs are treated equally and receive the same opportunities. This is the real issue when it comes to the U’s student basketball programs.

Wilson talked about inequalities in getting gym time, but it also goes to the weight room. “Lifting is another issue I have experienced. Lifting at the same time as the men just does not happen, but they seem to be in there quite a bit more than us which makes me think.

Rachel Messer, a junior shooting guard on the women’s basketball team, shares the same frustration. Messer said, “It is just unfortunate because the only difference between the two teams is that one of the teams is made up of men and the other team is made up of women,” Messer said.

Another issue that Wilson brought up was that the two teams were not promoted on an equal level.

Media promotion matters in a game of fan numbers, like NCAA athletics. Some critics say the typical lack of fans in the stands at the women’s games has everything to do with poor advertising.

The men’s games saw around 7,000 people at every home game and the team went 6-9 for season.

By contrast, the women’s games filled 10 to 15 percent of the Huntsman Center for home games. Last season the women’s team went 12-4 at home. The women’s team plays better at home, but the lack of screaming fans in the stands seems to suggest otherwise.

This is where media exposure becomes so important. The more media coverage a team receives, the more people across Utah will get to see what the team has to offer. Could this be the fundamental reason as to why some think the men’s team getting more publicity is wrong?

Nate Cordova, a member of a men’s team that practices against the women, chalks up greater press coverage of the men’s team as the reason for stronger fan support.

“The women get no advertising. I mean the men are garbage but like you go to their games, you always hear about them. Their advertising is way more publicized than the women, but the women are actually kind of good and the men suck so that’s interesting.”

Whether they are television commercials, signs around campus, or most importantly newspaper ads and articles, the men’s team is getting the majority of the media.

Cordova suggested that maybe the difference in male and female physical abilities is the reason for such wide gaps in fan interest and attendance.. “The [women’s] team brings us in to practice against them because we are bigger, faster and stronger than them and it helps prepare them for games. The men’s team does not need to bring anybody in because they are already very athletic and maybe that is why people like to watch them”.

Changing how a group of people are treated has been something this country has battled for hundreds of years. The lingering concerns over athletic inequities under Title IX could be evidence that this battle has yet to be won.