Women are simply up against systematic and intentional sex discrimination in collegiate sports

By: - September 21, 2020 7:00 am

Florida State University women’s soccer. Credit: YouTube, 2018.

This is the second of a two-part series about equality in college athletics, sexual abuse in sports, campus sexual assaults, and the efforts of Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a role model for many women athletes and a civil rights lawyer.

It has been 48 years since the U.S. Congress passed a bill to require colleges and universities to provide equal opportunities for male and female athletes.

You would think this country could fix such an inequity in all these years. The law was passed in 1972. Schools were given until 1978 to comply.

But a review of the latest statistics for Florida indicate that 52 of the state’s colleges and universities — both public and private — are failing to comply.

That’s out of a total of 66 Florida higher education institutions listed in data published recently in a 2020 report by Champion Women and the California Women’s Law Center.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Civil rights lawyer Nancy Hogshead-Makar is CEO of Champion Women, which provides legal expertise and advocacy for girls and women in sports.

Altogether, those 52 Florida colleges and universities would have to spend almost $43-million additional scholarship dollars for women and recruit thousands more female athletes to match what they provided to male athletes. (The other 14 institutions in the Florida list got a passing grade. They are mostly community colleges.)

Hogshead-Makar of Jacksonville sends an annual notice to all of the colleges and the major college conferences outlining the law and noting their failures.

“Despite the strong statute, interpreting regulations and case law, women lag behind men by all measurable criteria, including opportunities to play, scholarship dollars and treatment,’’ Hogshead-Makar wrote to the schools in June.

Women miss out on more than $1-billion in athletic scholarships annually, according to figures compiled by Champion Women. Colleges would have to provide women with 148,030 sports opportunities to match the opportunities given to men.

“The biggest tragedy behind the numbers is that most women athletes who are denied scholarships or a spot on a team believe it was because they weren’t good enough or didn’t work hard enough,” Hogshead-Makar said. “But in reality, none of this is true. Women are simply up against systematic and intentional sex discrimination in collegiate sport, despite strong legal protections.’’

Participating in sports has lifelong benefits in education, employment and health, she added. These benefits should be equally available to women.

Overall, the 2020 nationwide report starts with a question: “Is Your School Treating Female Athletes Fairly?

The data is for 2018-19 and was gleaned from more than 2,000 schools. The data includes an overall grade of pass or fail as well as other data points relating to equal athletic opportunities for men and women. The vast majority of schools in the report got an overall “fail” grade, according to the data.

For example, the Florida Phoenix reviewed data for Florida’s public universities in the category related to additional money that would have to be spent for women to equal the amounts spent on scholarships for male athletes. Here are those figures, from the highest to lowest amounts:

Florida State University   $3,682,384

Florida A&M  University   $2,644,314

University of South Florida (Main campus)  $2,643,911

Florida International University 2,033,980

University of Florida   $1,979,620

University of Central Florida $1,528,080

Florida Atlantic University $1,503,369

University of West Florida $721,382

Florida Gulf Coast University (no amount listed)

University of North Florida (no amount listed)

(Florida Polytechnic University and New College of Florida were not listed in the data.)

You can see more data in a variety of formats and for different types of schools in the 2020 report on the Champion Women website.

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Lucy Morgan
Lucy Morgan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.