Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What a Tangled Web We Weave

A story in Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer explained how Princeton's men's wrestling team at least partially owes its existence to the Princeton lightweight women (with a boost from the women's water polo team), while Bucknell's women's crew owes the existence of its new assistant coaches (maybe freeing up one to work with the lightweights?) to Bucknell wrestling. The article is about men's wrestling programs that had been given Title IX death sentences, coming back to life through the intervention of alumni fundraisers. The article starts by noting that Bucknell wrestling has been revived through the donation of alumnus Bill Graham, who also funded certain Bucknell women's programs, including crew. Although certainly not the official line, there can be little doubt that the women's funding was what is known to politicians as a bribe, to enable wrestling's reinstatement.

At Princeton, wrestling was given its Title IX death sentence in 1993, at which time fundraising efforts began immediately.

[Alumni] offered to endow Princeton's team as soon as it was eliminated. The university, knowing that alone wouldn't solve its Title IX problems, declined.

It wasn't until 1995, when new athletic director Gary Walters created a women's lightweight crew and upgraded a women's water polo club to varsity status, that the restoration of Princeton wrestling became possible.
It's somewhat ironic, isn't it, that the fates of two prominent weight class sports have become so intertwined? I'm ambivalent about the value of Title IX. It sure has done some great things for female athletes, and in particular for heavyweight women rowers. It has had some benefits, to a much lesser extent, for lightweight women as well. But any law that results in de facto quotas and zero sum games pitting male sports vs. female sports, has to be flawed. I wish I were smarter and could come up with a better solution, but I can't. One thing starts to seem pretty obvious, though, maybe football should suffer a little pain. Think the quality of the game would suffer with less than 85 scholarships? As Dennis Dodd said back in 2002,
Don't you get it? Oklahoma and Nebraska could have 22 iguanas facing off against each other, and it would still be a football rivalry.

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