Monday, May 14, 2007

VSL Hotline Hot Topic: Athletic Department Expansion

Should Vanderbilt expand their women's teams? Winning one NCAA Championship in women's bowling is hardly the sign of a juggernaut...with that said, it's progress. Adding volleyball and softball would seem to make sense, especially since the rest of the SEC compete in these sports. However, Vanderbilt should only expand if Gee and DeFKA guru David Williams are willing to properly fund the programs to a point of allowing them to be competitive.

Title IX is a tricky thing, and the reality is that Vanderbilt will have to add women's sports before they can think of adding more men's sports in order to be Title IX compliant. Title IX needs to be re-worked, Frank Deford had a great piece on NPR's Morning Edition about this a few weeks ago, to give some kind of dispensation for Football. Along the same lines, there are entirely too many scholarships made available to football players. If the NCAA reduced the number of scholarships teams could give out at the I-A level from say 85 to 70 (a number I pulled out of the air), there would still be plenty of football players, and perhaps there'd be more parity and you wouldn't have schools like Florida or USC with scholarship players 71-85 who could start and dominate at the vast majority of other schools. NFL teams have 53 man rosters and that includes the practice squad. NCAA teams, under the Bobby Plan, would still have 17 more.

Beyond that, these additional available scholarships would make it easier for schools to keep men's teams around and remain Title IX compliant. For example, those 15 scholarships would be enough to support a men's soccer team and still have 5.1 scholarships for another men's sport or to add an additional women's sport (synchronized swimming, fencing both allow 5 scholarships). Football is the NCAA's primary money-maker and it can basically bankroll many athletic departments (not to mention ESPN); with that said, if the 800 lbs. gorilla is starving all over men's sports that can't be good for college sports either. What do you guys think? Should Vanderbilt expand? How can the NCAA make it easier for schools (that don't have massive athletic associations that pay for everything) to continue to support men's sports that have little or no appeal beyond the players who play them? Sound off here, this could be a good one.


Douglas James said...

At first i though you were crazy but i have to agree....reducing scholarships for football would allow for more scholarships for other sports (we no longer have a soccer team correct?) Two sports i would like to see Vandy add are Swimming and Track and Field (we need some Vandy Olympians!). That being said football and b-ball make all the $ and i don't think they should be treated like other sports because the players are not treated like student athletes, they are used by the schools, the NCAA, ESPN and ABC/CBS/NBC to make huge profits while many don't even receive legitimate educations (and left worse off when then don't make it to the NFL/NBA). They should be given additional stipens over their scholarship so that the money they are given is enough to pay for things like food/clothes/travel, they should be properly educated and they should have to take classes in areas like money management so that they can provide for themselves and their familes in the future if they are lucky enough to make it to hte pros

Stanimal said...

There's no reason to give out 85 scholarships for football. Coaches are going to argue against that statement, but the fact is that if you had 70 scholarship athletes on a team, they would certainly find a way to make due. Remember, walk-ons don't get scholarships.

I do think this is a pretty significant problem with college athletics. Football is great, my favorite sport by far, but does that mean we should drive football to the point that it eliminates opportunities for other athletes at Vanderbilt? I certainly don't think so.

I think Gee is right, however, in saying that Vanderbilt should not expand until it can establish a competitive base among its currently established sports, especially the newer ones, such as women's swimming. We are at a critical juncture in Vandy sports where we need to establish consistency as a competitor in our athletic endeavors. There's no reason to place further financial burden on just yet. That being said, I personally think that Title IX, which is established to balance out the opportunities available to both genders, is tipping far too much to the women's side, and I think Vanderbilt is a prime example. There are only six men's sports at Vandy, and 9 women's (That's according to the website). Part of the problem is the fact that college football is basically an entity on its own. It might as well be a corporation established within each university (it pretty much already is considering the way athletic departments are run). This is what's throwing Title IX out of whack. There is no reason that other athletes should lose out on opportunities just so we can get extra players on the practice squad. Men's Track and Field and Swimming would be easy to bring to Vanderbilt because the facilities for them already exist.

I'm not trying to sound sexist, but it seems like the only time Vandy ever considers adding a sport, it's only for women. That doesn't seem fair to me to not give opportunities to athletes in non-football/basketball sports and to limit it to only six options.

Andrew Banecker said...

Not to mention the effect 85 football scholarships has on our #1 Vanderbilt baseball team. In case you're not aware, though there are currently 38 players on Vandy's roster, each NCAA baseball team is allowed to award only 11.78 scholarships, so you'll find a kid with a 1/4 scholarship as your starting second baseman, and a 3rd starting pitcher with an eighth of a scholarship. Think about this with respect to the cost of Vanderbilt as compared to other SEC schools, and it's absolutely mind boggling what Tim Corbin's been able to accomplish so far. Further, I've heard of a ruling which is demanding that everyone on the team receive, at the very least, a 1/3 scholarship. I'm not an expert on this ruling, but heard it at the gym while watching a Fox Sports South broadcast of LSU v Florida (I'm an '04 Vandy alum currently doing grad work at LSU). Simple math dictates that with a 38 person roster, that would break it down to .31 scholarships per... not even reaching the .33 cap they're trying to set. This, as it seems, could ruin college baseball, as players such as David Price and Pedro Alvarez would almost certainly sign with whatever major league team signed them if not offered a full scholarship. Or, at the very least, they'd still be able to sign these players, but wouldn't be able to give these lesser, partial scholarships to a kid who might not quite be able to afford to come to Vandy. Once again, I'm not an expert on this ruling... but it's unnerving.

Bobby O'Shea said...


Good info. While I hadn't heard about this particular ruling, it is clear that football's bloated scholarship number significantly impacts all other sports universities try to compete in at the Division I-A level. Consider that the scholarship ceiling for I-AA football is 65. If those 12 of those scholarships were given to baseball, with the other 8 given to women's sports, the Title IX balance would gain 8 additional scholarships and the number of baseball scholarships doubled. You still have 12 more roster spots than NFL teams have (creating more parody as far as I am concerned) and schools that don't have unlimited athletic budgets have an easier time remaining Title IX compliant

College baseball will be significantly impacted (particularly at schools such as Rice and Vanderbilt that aren't cheap to begin with) if Andrew's understanding of the new rule is adopted. Under the current structure, if the NCAA is serious about promoting sports beyond Football, they are going to have to classify it differently. It's a scary thought, but the best way to have a reasonable approach to all this might be through Congress. Currently, the NCAA is considered a "not for profit" entity, and (rightly so) some members are asking questions. I have to think there are better things for Congress to deal with, with that said, anything that leads to progress in this area would be welcome news.

Dr. MZ said...

Andrew --

The ruling would require that any aid package offered by a school would have to include at least a one-third scholarship.

This doesn't mean that a school would be forced to give every athlete money. Nor does it mean that schools would be required to use all of the money available to them. There are a fair amount of Division I baseball programs that field teams without the maximum of scholarship money, as allowed by NCAA, at their disposal.

The top recruits at fully funded baseball programs, like Vanderbilt, would still be getting full rides. Schools would just have to think harder about whether that kid on the end of the bench getting the bare bones package would be worth a one-third deal.


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