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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Title IX throws wrench in NCAA case

    In July 2009, former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA for using his image in profit-generating electronic media without his consent. Dozens of former and current college athletes — including two UA football players — joined O’Bannon in a class-action lawsuit, accusing the organization of violating antitrust law. The plaintiffs argued that by using their names and likenesses to raise billions of dollars in sales revenue, the NCAA “unreasonably and illegally restrained trade in order to commercially exploit former student-athletes.”

    At the heart of the case lies a question that has a plagued collegiate athletics for years: Should student athletes be paid, or should the NCAA continue to profit under the guise of “amateurism”?
    This month, federal Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with O’Bannon, ruling that colleges can pay athletes with “revenues generated from the use of their names, images and likenesses in addition to full grant-in-aid.” In other words, universities may now compensate athletes above the cost of tuition, housing and mandatory fees.

    Assuming we accept the controversial premise that collegiate athletes deserve to be paid on top of receiving a free education, there exists a fundamental problem with the O’Bannon ruling: It only applies to football and men’s basketball. True, football and men’s basketball are the only revenue-producing sports within the NCAA. Implementing a payment system exclusive to men’s football and basketball, however, would undermine the central tenets of Title IX.

    Title IX states clearly: “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.” Since its passage in 1972, the law has revolutionized women’s college athletic programs. NCAA schools must provide proportional funding and facilities for both men’s and women’s sports teams, and they must offer individual athletic opportunities for each gender in numbers proportional to the gender distribution of the entire student body.

    It is the latter requirement that challenges the legality of Wilken’s decision. For each opportunity available to a male athlete, there must be a comparable opportunity available to a female athlete. If a school’s student body is comprised of 50 percent men and 50 percent women, approximately half of its athletes should be female.

    Inherent in the proportionality requirement, then, is the following: Without women’s sports, men’s football and basketball don’t exist. Without women’s sports, there are no profits for anyone.

    Certainly, it is a massive injustice for the NCAA to generate enormous revenue without compensating the athletes whose hard work makes the organization itself possible. It would be equally unjust, however, to enact a payment system that only benefits male athletes. But because the existence of collegiate men’s sports legally depends on the existence of women’s sports, it seems that Title IX would need to be repealed, or at the very least reinterpreted, for Wilken’s ruling to stand, and this would be the biggest injustice of all.

    —Elizabeth Hannah is a neuroscience & cognitive science sophomore. Follow her @ehannah10

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