Fight over revenue jeopardizes Title IX protections for amateur athletes

Amy Bercow is not a priest by trade.

But once the COVID-19 pandemic exposed some cardboard bottoms on yachts in the college’s athletic departments, it wasn’t hard to see which ships would make it. And any of them will sink.

“I think you’re likely to see some fragmentation among Division I (schools) in particular,” Bercow, chief executive of Knight Intercollegiate Athletics, told The Post. (and) possibly different structures.

“The college sports model, frankly, is going to look very different in five or 10 years. But I firmly believe that whatever the model is, we will see a commitment to opportunity for women and more compliance with Section IX.”

Others are not sure.

Despite Bercow’s optimism, an Associated Press poll a year ago of 99 athletic directors found that 94% of respondents said it “would be somewhat or significantly more difficult to comply with Title IX gender equality rules if their school were to compensate athletes in The biggest money making sport.

As version IX, the landmark civil rights law that outlaws gender discrimination in any school or educational program that receives federal funding, is 50 years old, college athletics as we know it is in flux.

Student-athletes can now legally seek to make use of their name, photo, and likeness (none). Last June, the Supreme Court voted unanimously in the case NCAA vs Alston Restrictions on education-related benefits to students violate antitrust laws. In its opinion, the court accused the NCAA of “monopolistic power” and strongly hinted that it views the organization’s basic definition of amateurs as outdated and anti-trade.

Athletes and boosters are now untied in ways they’ve never been before, and traditional NCAA guards — college presidents, athletic directors, and coaches — have found themselves in varying degrees of panic.

With sports departments scrambling to protect their bottom line, as well as some of their very important salaries, will the equal opportunity for women required by Act Nine be maintained? Or will non-revenue sports find themselves at risk as the free market for talent creates accelerated bidding wars in men’s soccer and men’s basketball?

Football grip on the first division

In December 2020, the Perko’s Knight Committee, a group dedicated to reforms that support and strengthen the educational mission of collegiate sports, recommended that FBS football separate itself from the NCAA completely.

Some officials were thinking along the same lines.

One of them, Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick, sent shock waves across the collegiate scene in April when he told Sports Illustrated that the split between Division One universities, a group that currently includes Colorado, Colorado State, Denver, Northern Colorado and Air. Power is “inevitable” by 2030.

“There are a lot of schools trying to get out of their current conference, and they just can’t get there,” Swarbrick told SI.com Pat Forde.

CSU, for example, has made no secret of its desire to leave Mountain West for a Power 5 conference like the Big 12 or Pac-12 in order to reap the revenue increases that will accompany it. The reorganization of the conference a decade or so ago was one of the rationales behind the creation of the state-of-the-art Canvas Stadium, which opened in 2017.

But Big 12 itself is in transition with the departure of the support schools in Texas and Oklahoma to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The idea of ​​the so-called college football “Premier League”, in which the best and richest team in Power 5 break up for their own big conference, unlike the elite football clubs of Europe, has been a fan fiction of an entire generation. Ago.

But as Berko and Swarbrick note, the seeds are already being sown. Pac-12 commissioner George Klyavkov added more fertilizer to the mix earlier this month by telling The Athletic that he believes the FBS conferences, not the NCAA, should run big college football from now on.

If the Buffs and Rams, for example, had to find themselves on the outside looking inward when it came to TV revenue compared to their current conference peers, it’s hard to imagine that women’s sports, and Law IX enforcement, wouldn’t feel some of the tiered effects. but how much? And when?

“The ninth title belongs to our entire university. It’s the law,” CU Athletic Director Rick George told The Post. “It’s not like we can go out and say that every sport is going to be able to do whatever (you love) and you don’t think there will be implications under the law. ninth.”

University of Colorado fans cheering...

Hyung Chang, Denver Post

University of Colorado fans cheer for the team during a game against Nebraska at Folsom Field in Boulder on September 7, 2019.

Seismic changes are looming

With the NCAA entering this decade as a wounded animal and redefining old notions of what constituted a “student athlete,” college sports find itself in a period of potentially seismic change.

And some seismic posters will shock.

According to data provided by the CU to the NCAA for the 2019-20 fiscal year, the last football season unaffected by COVID-19, the Buffs received $21.94 million for broadcast rights, including revenue shared by Pac-12 members.

The athletic division was awarded $9.29 million in league distributions outside broadcast and bowl revenue. Meanwhile, operating expenses for all women’s sports programs totaled $10.59 million, compared to $4.06 million in total operating income.

Wherever the college sports train veers from here, no matter budget concerns, George emphasized, he believes Title IX will remain one of the permanent roadblocks.

George continued, “As we continue to move forward, as the NCAA continues to move forward, as we look at what the industry looks like — and that’s coming by the end of the year — Title IX will be very viable for this new structure. Whatever.”

George added that through the university’s NIL exchange, volleyball blocker Sterling Parker and skater Kaitlyn Harsh recently joined in a partnership with Fowler Automotive, while sprinter Jada Drum launched her own clothing line, Drama Apparel.

“It’s important that every school looks to make sure that student-athletes, both male and female, have the same access points and the same opportunities as the other[gender],” said George.

But in order to preserve those opportunities for women’s sports, exposure is crucial.

That’s important both nationally and regionally, said Fran Pelepi, the senior striker on the Stanford women’s basketball team and former Colorado Gatorade player of the year in Regis Jesuit.

“There are a lot of ways we can start to see things as more equal if we start with something as simple as news coverage and putting women in (television broadcasting) as often as men,” Bleby said. “This goes a long way in the fight for equal pay and more opportunity, we hope. …

“I think something as simple as just putting people on TV more often can show that there are more women playing, that there are more women that are part of the sport… and if we can do that in sports, maybe we can start to Do it in the world.”

Stanford Cardinal No. 5 Fran Pellepi gets a rebound against 31st Audrey Warren of the Texas Longhorns during the third quarter in the Elite 8 Tournament of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 27, 2022 in Spokane, Washington.

Abby Barr, Getty Images

Stanford Cardinal No. 5 Fran Pellepi gets a rebound against 31st Audrey Warren of the Texas Longhorns during the third quarter in the Elite 8 Tournament of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 27, 2022 in Spokane, Washington.

The NCAA currently awards more than $160 million in revenue to its members, roughly 28% of its annual distribution, based on bids and wins in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — but no money from similar achievements on the women’s side.

A 2021 report commissioned by the NCAA Board of Governors and written by attorney Roberta Kaplan, founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, declared that the organization’s revenue distribution model was “inconsistent with the NCAA’s stated commitment to gender equality.”

SB-1401, or the Gender Equality and Race and Gender Act, was introduced by the California state legislature last February with the goal of shifting money generated by college sports from the hands of conferences and universities to student athletes providing competition and entertainment.

But the devil was in the details. In simpler terms, SB-1401 would have required California colleges whose sports produce significant revenue to split profits with the respective student-athletes. Officials complained that revenue currently earmarked to help pay for the Olympics and women’s sports should instead go to men’s soccer and basketball players.

The bill has stalled in the Senate, but its supporters, including the National Collegiate Players Association, are pushing to get it back on the California agenda no later than 2023.

“(I hope) they (legislators) will think about all sports,” Bilibé said. “Because I don’t think it’s right to decide who deserves more – sure, sometimes, football brings money. But we all work there. So I think we all deserve the opportunity to benefit from that hard work.”

Stanford striker Francesca Pellepi...

Young Kwak, The Associated Press

Stanford forward Fran Pelepi cuts the net after a college basketball game against Texas in the NCAA Elite 8 Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Spokane, Washington. Stanford won 59-50.

‘Untapped potential’

Despite the reservations of some athletic directors, Bercow remains confident that the unregulated forces who stood up for student-athletes rights will also sympathize with gender equality in the decades to come.

“I think nonprofits, especially with NCAA universities that have a higher education mission, will move more quickly to solve Title IX and non-compliance issues,” Bercow said.

“I also think, from a business point of view, people are realizing the untapped potential of women’s sports, and there are a lot of metrics you can point to to show that potential — just looking at the sport (on TV) now, the World College Series, you can look at the TV ratings For this event, it continues to rise.There is a growth in women’s football.

In this Monday, June 7, 2021 file photo, James Madison's Odicci Alexander plays in the first half of the NCAA Women's World Championships softball game against Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Su Ogroki, Associated Press file

In this Monday, June 7, 2021 file photo, James Madison’s Odicci Alexander plays in the first half of the NCAA Women’s World Championships softball game against Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

“You can really trace that back to the time when many schools realized they needed to add more opportunities for women in college sports.”

While Title IX’s impact is often cited for its impact on gender equality in sport, it is also designed to protect students from discrimination in forums that include sexual harassment, employment, discipline, financial assistance, admissions and employment.

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